Food, drink, film and other random thoughts from The Lone Star State.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Brazil 69

I'm sure Sangroncito or Suzy could give you much more detail about the history of Brazil during this era, since they both lived in and know much more about the country than I.

However, let me set the stage for this true-story film.

Four Days In September

O Que É Isso Companheiro?

In 1964 the government of Brazil was overthrown by the military and a dictatorship was established. What followed was a 25-year black mark characterized by prisons filled with political enemies who were systematically tortured, executed and discarded like farm animals. Desaparecidos.

Fast forward, 1969, a couple of 'middle-class' students decide to join a small revolutionary group intending to free these political prisoners using 'fight fire with fire' tactics.

The story revolves about one of these students, his idea to capture and hold hostage the American Ambassador to Brazil in exchange for prisoners, and the very tense drama that unfolds between the students and Brazilian junta.

The story itself is a well-crafted riptide that will suck you under in an instant. You are never given an opportunity to side with the junta nor the revolutionaries, both are portrayed in an as-is light, good and bad working together to accomplish equal but opposite agendas. While the junta is obviously corrupt and evil, the revoutionaries employ similar tactics; you can't condemn one without dragging along the other. Players on both sides reveal their humanity: guilt, shame, fear, insecurity all allowing the viewer to relate but not necessarily align.

Throughout the film I felt like the agendas of the junta and revolutionary group were somewhat secondary to another agenda more indigenous to human nature - ego; as if the director and writer had purposely rigged an ego bomb. One that never exploded, yet you knew somewhere, someone's finger was itching for the detonator.

The student-lead kidnapping is executed professionally, followed by a aggressive man-hunt from the opposition. Cat and mouse psychology twists the cord, each turn becoming almost unbearably tense as the pressure starts to cook out all reasonable thought from each side.

The introduction of the movie blends still photos of the era with fast-moving scene fragments of the film, it creates a powerfully discordant, stop-go feeling that continues throughout. I thought that was clever intro artistry.

The acting is great with Fernanda Torres, daughter of Brazil's finest actress, Fernanda Montenegro, leading the pack. Her character is the leader of the revolution. In the beginning she is hard and calculating but as the story progresses and she becomes romantically involved with one of the others, her character becomes more colorful, more afraid, more human.

Alan Arkin delivers one big performance as the Ambassador. Once he is kidnapped he strikes the perfect balance between political saavy and human fear. Through his paternal character we get back-narration of the revolutionaries in chilling detail, both their humanity and the lack thereof.

While the film gives you a whopping dose of power = corruption and a clear example of extreme situations calling for extreme measures, in the end I felt as though this was all delivered through a vaseline filter; as if the writer, producer and director were still living under the oppressive censorship of the junta itself.



Blogger Daniel, the Guy in the Desert said...

Alan Arkin is one of my heroes. I've hardly ever seen him in a movie that was as good as he was.
Film sounds good. Too bad they soft pedalled it.
Is it subtitled? My Portugese is slower than my Spanish, although I can usually just follow the flow.

4:29 PM

Blogger Jim said...

Hi Daniel, Yes, English subtitles but you could follow the story without them, very visually led.

4:46 PM

Blogger JC said...

Sounds interesting I will keep an eye out for it in Austin. I work with a couple of Brazillians, I will have to ask them about the way I tried out your falafel recipe, you can see the review at Father's Day Falafels

11:33 PM

Blogger Jim said...

JC, I think you will get an earful from the Brazilians, I did :)

Ooo, on my way to check out the Falafel review :)

7:30 AM

Blogger Sangroncito said...

I'll have to check this film out.

As bad as the era of the Brazilian military juntas was, it was mild compared to the dictatorships of other Latin American regimes of the era.

4:36 PM

Blogger Jim said...

Definitely Michael, I have heard of worse!

6:47 PM


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