Archive for the ‘Brasil’ Category

It all looks a bit surreal at the end, when a group of underprivileged kids from a favela in Sao Paulo perform a classic musical piece perfectly. Especially since months before the concert, none of them could even read scores or hold their instruments the right way. But hey, it’s cinema. And it comes with a good story. Based on true facts apparently. Far from original, true. But it’s set in Brazil and doesn’t quite feel the same as similar Hollywood stories. A talented violin player can’t secure a place in the National Symphonic Orchestra and needs to teach music in a public school to make some money. The school is surrounded by drug dealers and other criminals and even in the band are some kids who do credit card scamming in their after hours. But the teacher somehow manages to inspire the kids and they end up performing well, making him confident enough to audition for the orchestra again. See. All very predictable.

It’s an okay movie. But the acting by some of the kids is very basic. And the story doesn’t dig deep enough. We never get to learn why the teacher, who is so talented, doubts his own capacities so much. We also don’t get to learn more about the kids and their situation. Sure, there’s that one scene where this girl shouts out that playing music helps her escape from everyday problems. But it feels forced. This could have been a good tv series. Now it’s just an okay movie. Lazaro Ramos is great tough. And Kaique De Jesus (that name!) is set for more starring roles!


Minha Mãe E Uma Peça: O Filme

Posted: April 11, 2017 in 2013, Brasil, Comedy

In an attempt to understand what’s popular in Brazil, I tried to watch this blockbuster comedy, available online with English subtitles. (see below)

Not sure why I even bothered finishing.

Based on a theatre play, the comedy focuses on a middle-aged woman who’s fed up with her divorced life and her annoying teenage kids. She leaves her apartment and stays at an aunt for a while, reminiscing on her life in flashbacks. In the mean time the kids realize they miss their mom.

I guess the humor is universal. The mother is played by a man. hahahahahahahahahahahna. The children are played by adults. One is fat. The other is effeminate. hahahahahahahahahahahahaha. A woman farts. hahahahahahahahahahahahaha. The social divide is present again, but this time the cleaning lady shouts back at her boss. hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. And everyone SHOUTS. As if everyone in the cast thinks they are on stage and nobody in the audience will be able to hear what they say. hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

In case you haven’t understood. There is more irony in the previous paragraph than in the entire movie.

The sequel is an even bigger hit.

It’s humor. It works. Just not for me.



Cities of Love Part III.

After the disastrous Paris, Je T’Aime (2006) and New York, I Love You (2008) someone thought it was a good idea to also make a similar mash-up of silly love stories in Rio De Janeiro. That someone was probably paid a lot by the Department of Tourism of this cidade maravilhosa. None of the stories are captivating. The acting is terrible. The dialogue is ridiculous at times. It’s a complete waste of time and money for the talented people who participated in the project. Hopefully, they received a lot of money for this, because none of them can honestly claim they actually feel proud of whatever they did. Either acting or directing.

But unlike the other two movies, this one actually is worth watching until the end, because unlike the other two movies, it shows the city in the most beautiful kind of way. There are dozens of shots from above, but hey, that’s what makes the city so beautiful. That gorgeous view over the bay with all the rock formations around it… there’s nothing quite like it. As a commercial, this really works well. You want to visit asap. Just be warned that you won’t really be able to see the same views unless you get on a helicopter…

So as an overlong commercial, it’s okay. As a movie it’s not. There are so many stories you can tell. The city is so inspiring. Yet, we see ten tales that just don’t appeal. Most of them aren’t even in Portuguese and have characters from outside of Brazil. Some have potential though. The story about the one-armed boxer could have been explored better. The one with Harvey Keitel is also not that bad. It just feels like a draft of a story. Like a rehearsal for something else. Others are totally amateur like the one where Vincent Cassel rebuilds his sand sculpture. It’s a nice idea, showing the different kind of people walking on the iconic Copacabana side-walk in accordance with different sounds. But the sounds are terribly annoying! Couldn’t they have brainstormed a bit more to find awesome, recognizable sounds ? And Vanessa Paradis and John Torturro doing a stage play dialogue around a kitchen table: what the hell is this doing in a movie set in Rio?

Yeah, this is NOT a good movie. Just watch the trailer.


People watching: Recife.

That’s it really. And it’s great. Just watch the trailer. It’s how a trailer should be: intriguing and not telling anything at all.

Brazil is an fascinating country. Its diversity and contrasts are a wealth of inspiration for any kind of story-teller. This movie focuses on the life of a few upper middle class residents in a fancy residential high-rise area of the northeastern metropolis. A private security team comes to offer their services to protect the street block at night. This looks fishy, but it’s Brazil and you cannot be safe enough. Things kind of build up to a bigger finale, but that story isn’t all that important. It’s more the collection of beautifully shot scenes and the both direct and indirect stabs at Brazilian society that keep you watching until the end.

Brazil is a great country and you can have everything you want. But it comes with a price. And we’re not just talking money. You can have all the wealth you want (with the right kind of parents and skin color or luck), but you will never get rid of the paranoia. There’s insecurity everywhere. Out on the streets. Around familiar places. And even inside your head.


There is something wrong with members of film festival juries and art house movie reviewers. They praise and reward exploitation movies with no substance whatsoever and mediocre cinematic appeal. And because they do this, more of these movies are made.

Neon Bull is part of an interesting movie box containing ten of the best movie releases from 2016 of which I’ve only seen three so far: Carol **, Room **(*), Spotlight ***. The others are El Clan, Son Of Saul, Heart of A Dog, Elle, 45 Years and White Dog. 

Neon Bull skipped my radar. It may have received rave reviews and it may have won several awards, it didn’t make a long run in the cinemas. Neither here, nor in Brazil or anywhere else in the world. And there’s a good reason for that: it’s just not good.

The characters are boring and there is no story at all. It’s just a collection of scenes, set in the initially intriguing setting of a traveling rodeo circus in Brazil. Some scenes are well filmed, sure, but the action and the dialogue in the scenes are terrible. Not one of them is appealing. Some reviews rave about the ‘natural’ sex scene between the main lead and a pregnant lady. Really? There’s hardcore porn (from Brazil at least) that’s more poetic and romantic!

Neon Bull is the kind of movie that people make to get selected in film festivals and to get rave reviews in ‘the better’ newspapers. It’s all so premeditated. The movie does not feel real. It feels like it’s all made with one purpose only: to wow movie critics and film festival jurors. And to have people write about it. (which works, because this is a long entry) It’s not made with a heart. Nor is it made to reach out to a large audience. In fact, it’s made to reach out to the elitist better off, so they can look at the exotic lesser off.

It’s all so calculated. You can imagine the movie director and his producers sit together and think: “let’s have a sex scene with a pregnant lady and make it look artistic”, “let’s add a little pointless side story to show a guy jerking of a horse’s penis! we’ll make the audience believe he does it to steal stallion sperm, because he needs the money, but all people will talk/write about is the masturbating scene”, “let’s film animal cruelty not to show animal cruelty, but to make people talk about it”, “let’s make a mother slap her child”, “let’s show how poor these rodeo worker are by filming them taking a very basic shower”, “let’s add a Brazilian wax scene in a truck driver seat. that’ll be cool”

I’m sure those who love the movie will disagree. But at least one person needs to write that this movie should be renamed Neon Bullshit.



Even those who don’t know anything about soccer, have at least heard of Pelé, the Brazilian soccer phenomenon from back in late fifties and entire sixties. He became world famous during the World Championship in Sweden, anno 1958. Before winning that world cup, the rest of the world looked down upon the exotic ‘ginga’ style of the Brazilian players. But that all changed when Pelé showed how beautiful playing soccer good be.

Pelé: Birth Of A Legend is a nice biopic about the early years of the Brazilian hero. It’s interesting to learn where Pelé came from (a poor community) and how he was treated as such. But it’s all too nice. It’s clear that the story wants to stress how much discrimination there was (and is) in Brazil, but it kind of takes away the charm of a simple biopic.

Pelé himself produced the movie, so it’s pretty obvious that the end result isn’t too controversial or critical. And that’s fine. (He even has a cameo) But it could have been a much bigger critical and commercial success if someone else had been in control. And if it would have been made in Brazil, by Brazilians and in Portuguese. Now it feels like a low budget made for tv weekend movie with no authencity at all and with actors who just not seem to know how to charm an audience.

Kids may like it.


Back in June 2013 several Brasilians took to the streets of especially Sao Paulo to protest against the raise of the subway fare. Some of the demonstrations made the news in Europe, but nobody really understood what the big revolt was all about. Junho makes an effort to explain why people took to the streets and protested against the government. It works well for the first half of the documentary, but by the time you realise that the protests are getting a bit out of hand, the documentary becomes a mess as well. There are so many different historians, journalists, poets, demonstrators, political scientists in front of the camera, that it becomes confusing. It’s a noble cause to show different views, but the material is too complicated for it to work here. This subject demands a few classes in school by a neutral professor who explains it more theoretically.

Brazil is a mess. It’s a beautiful country and the inhabitants are amazing, but the polticial system and the very divided society is fucked up. A documentary like this doesn’t help you understand it better. Nor does it give you hope.