Brazilian Film Festival 2014: Naked Eye Documents Ney Matogrosso's Career

Ambient sounds, a screeching monkey, and some out of focus imagery greet you when Olho Nu (Naked Eye) begins. It's arguably a jarring experience, and yet, the moment one sees Ney Matogrosso donning real goat horns, goatskin, bull tooth, and monkey hair, it makes perfect sense. This documentary is all about a performer's career and all the eccentricities that come with being a Brazilian glam rocker.

It's clear from the very beginning that Olho Nu wants to pride itself on being just as eccentric a documentary as the subject it's presenting, something I'd often praise in an informative work. The problem with the film, however, is that it doesn't actually do all that much to stand out from anything else.

It's as indulgent as it gets at times, often finding more interest in scenery shots, regurgitating the same colored footage from the past, or showing off Ney Matogrosso's nearly-naked body (in both past and present). Anyone who has sat through pretty much any doc that looks into a musician's work will find the attempts at standing out to be rather pedestrian.

It occasionally falls into a comfortable format, dipping Matogrosso's note-worthy interviews and music in historical context with some genuinely interesting archival footage. But each time it touches upon something introspective on the artist's part -- the overtly feminine aesthetic and make-up he used to craft an on-stage identity, for instance -- the ball is dropped solely to cut back to clips that were formerly shown. A queer performer with such a flamboyant personality and commentary worth hearing about gender role transgressions deserves better than a documentary more focused on his their gyrating hips more often than anything else.

If anything works as a true saving grace for Joel Pizzini's amateur work, it's Ney Matogrosso's music playing throughout, along with the music video clips and classic performances that accompany it. As a newcomer to his music, I found myself enamored by that countertenor voice; it was a rather great shame to have each tune pulled away after mere seconds. The longer a performance and a tune is on screen, the better the scene, as Matogrosso's charisma is only ever at full-force in those moments.

I wonder, as I think back to the film now, if a better move might not had been to format the entire thing as solely a portrait of Matogrosso's music through the ages; a presentation of archival footage (easily compiled as shown here) that split his life into a series of personal songs that would climax in one of his most recent performances. Instead, Pizzini tries to be as risqué as he can with Matogrosso's life and music without taking any real chances outside of throwing some nudity around here and there. In the process, Olho Nu makes its subject come off more conventional than extraordinary, and may only end up truly appealing to those with an overwhelming love for the performer.

Naked Eye screens at 9 p.m. Tuesday at Miami Beach Cinematheque. Tickets cost $8-$11. Visit brazilianfilmfestival.com or mbcinema.com.

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