Black Orpheus (1959)

Black Orpheus Review………………………………………………………..

Black Orpheus Movie Review

Black Orpheus is a 1959 Brazilian fantasy drama film directed by Marcel Camus and starring Marpessa Dawn and Breno Mello. It is quite a good film and a deserved Oscar winner.

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The happiness of the poor is the great illusion of carnival

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This is such an interesting experiment that is for the most part successful. The mix of modern and traditional is particularly strong as the story is basically Greek mythology, but the setting is modern Brazil. That was so authentic and intriguing. I like the inherent energy of the film as well as that classical, moving feel to it.

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Black Orpheus Review………………………………………………………..

The problem here is the music. It is great and I loved watching the dance sequences, but they were just overly abundant to the point of affecting the overall story by reducing some of its impact and seriously slowing the pacing. Again the energy is palpable, but I wanted to have much more emphasis on the plot itself.

The highlights for me are the ending which is breathtakingly beautiful and majestic as well as that entire third act that is poetic and so strong. I really enjoyed how the movie suddenly became a fantasy whereas it was realistic drama before that. The mix of realism and fantastical is so well incorporated here which is a huge accomplishment as those two are hard to pull off together.

But the biggest highlights in Black Orpheus are the small moments. The use of the kids is really well established, the looks and facial expressions, the infectious energy, the sexiness and exotic quality to it and that one moment where a woman stuffs a watermelon in a man’s face. Those moments were precious to me and they lifted the entire picture to greater heights.

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Black Orpheus Review………………………………………………………..

Orfeu is a bit too annoying at first, but he becomes much more likable later on. Mira is annoying, but she has to be for the story. And Eurydice is quite sympathetic. The two are great together and Marpessa Dawn and Breno Mello aren’t great, but they did a perfectly solid job having in mind that they aren’t actors.

Black Orpheus benefits from such a strong direction from Marcel Camus who really superbly crafted this movie. The pacing is problematic in the first half and the music is overwhelming, but the second half is mostly fantastic and so well crafted. The film has a voice which is evident from the start and it also has the originality factor to it as it really is a one of a kind experiment. And the fact that it is largely successful is all the more admirable.

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Black Orpheus Review………………………………………………………..

I really liked the color photography and the music, though overwhelming, is pretty good. I would have liked to have seen stronger character development and dialogue in particular, but those weren’t bad either, they were just disappointing. The movie is so well filmed and sometimes even breathtaking to witness. That grand quality to it is overwhelming and felt from the start, but fully came into its own during the third act. It is a technical marvel and even though it certainly has its problems, it is mostly such a good, memorable experience and a movie that rightfully won an Oscar. In fact, it is one of the best early winners in the foreign category.

Even though the characterization isn’t great and the music is overwhelming, Black Orpheus is still such a strong, really memorable experience and a film that benefits from some great technical aspects, superb direction, an infectious, palpable energy, some moving small moments and a breathtaking ending. But it is above all a unique, intriguing mix of modern Brazil and Greek mythology and it’s largely a successful, admirable experiment.

My Rating – 4

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The Second Mother (2015)

The Second Mother Movie Review

The Second Mother Movie Review

The Second Mother is a 2015 Brazilian drama film directed by Anna Muylaert and starring Regina Casé. It is one of the year’s best and moth interesting dramas.

It follows the housemaid of a wealthy family who lives and works at their house. But tensions arise when her daughter moves in with them and unspoken class barriers are suddenly evident. This is such a clever, sophisticated movie that is seemingly simplistic on the surface, but actually explores its subject matter in the best way possible – by letting you witness and realize it for yourself instead of preaching about it with a big message. I loved that sophisticated approach.

But the film also succeeds because it is such an engaging, dialogue-driven, character-driven drama in which characters are so real that I felt that I’ve just met them. Yes, the character development is really strong. Val is amazing and grounded in reality. She is never made a caricature here as the director herself said she did not want to ridicule her. And she succeeded in that task as the character is so real, but also so likable and endearing. And her change in personality near the end is achieved wonderfully and never feels abrupt. Jéssica is also really good and although extremely unlikable at first, you can see near the end why she was acting like that. She was unhappy because her mother was never there for her and their relationship is so heartwarming and ends on such a wonderful note. And the members of the wealthy family are all very well portrayed.

The acting is magnificent. Everyone here delivered a superb performance as Camila Márdila did such a good job in the role of Jéssica and Regina Casé is of course fantastic. She is so believable and gave a powerhouse, wonderful performance that is one of the best of the year. So good.

There are some parts in The Second Mother that I found annoying and problematic. Carlos pursued Jéssica here and that I strongly disliked as it was a totally unnecessary development that wasn’t important for the overall story. But they still did a good job with that as well because the scene in which he proposes to her is so realistically executed that I really appreciated it. Another thing that I found unnecessary was the twist with the baby in the end. That was also not needed for the story and it lessened the impact of the otherwise fantastic finale.

The Second Mother is a wonderful chamber drama where the characters are the most important aspect and they are basically always in one house. I really liked that and this is one of the better chamber dramas in recent years as it makes use of its setting and approach to the fullest extent, creating such a sophisticated, involving drama in the process. The tone I also really liked as the film is quite comedic in tone at times. Val’s fearful attitude produced many laughs and the clash between the two was funny in some scenes. The dialogue is terrific and there are some very interesting lines said in the movie. The film is also very realistic, but also emotionally investing and ultimately immensely heartwarming and satisfying. The film is also mostly well paced and the directing from Anna Muylaert is excellent. It is such an engaging, thought-provoking movie and one of the best films I’ve seen all year.

The Second Mother is terrific. The dialogue is so good, the performances are phenomenal and the characters are so well developed and so real that the movie is a perfect chamber drama that is always involving, emotionally investing and sophisticated. It does have some unnecessary plot points, but it is nonetheless one of the best and most satisfying films of the year.

My Rating – 4.5

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Boy & the World (2014)

Boy & the World

Boy & the World Review

Boy & the World is a 2014 Brazilian animated silent film directed by Ale Abrau. It is an abstract and wordless movie that gathered critical praise and awards, but I found it flawed.

It follows a boy whom his father leaves in search of work and the boy embarks on a journey to find him towards an unknown city. This is an abstract, artistic film in the vein of Disney’s ‘Fantasia‘, but whereas that film had no story for the major part, Boy & the World has one which is its strength and weakness in the process. Let me elaborate. While it is definitely better in my opinion for a movie to have a concrete story and this movie does have one, I still found it flawed as it is too simplistic and too ambiguous and never properly explained.

It is thematically rich and some moments are marvelous to behold. The most memorable scene for me was the one in which the two fall asleep and the camera moves away from them and we get a look at the big city. That is a great way to show how in the city that is chaotic and vast, the two found each other and that is all that matters. And the film has those moments to spare, but they are just moments and the overall storyline is quite lacking unfortunately.

I wished to have seen more of it and I wished for better and more clear storytelling as it is too difficult to understand here not only because it’s silent and has no dialogue, but mostly because the approach is too ambiguous. Its political overtones in the second half aren’t as well handled and I enjoyed the first half much more and found the tonal shift at the middle quite jarring to be honest. It starts and ends well with great touching moments, but I wish that the whole movie was like that – intimate and warm.

Boy & the World is a technical marvel. It has such an artistic and unique animation that has wonderful Latin-like qualities while also being effervescent and beautiful to look at. The character design is not my cup of tea as it is overly simplistic, but the simplistic animation otherwise works here and I found the animation of the jobs, towns and abstract scenes the highlights. It is so colorful, but wonderfully so rather than garish which is a great achievement.

The score is one of the best aspects here without any doubt. It is amazing and so catchy and just moving. It is wonderfully Brazilian in essence, but also the kind of music that anyone can enjoy and this is the soundtrack that lifts the whole movie to greater heights as it is that good. The pacing is also solid and although the movie can be tough to sit though due to its nature, it is still not as boring as it could have been and the running time is manageable. The directing is good and the imagery is always fascinating to watch. The movie isn’t original at all in its storytelling, but is rather authentic in its technicalities and especially animation which is one of a kind and so refreshing. It is visually a feast for the eyes and it is worth watching for that alone. But it isn’t engaging and the plot should have been much better realized and that would have made the movie much better. Also, the characters are forgettable and don’t get any development whatsoever. It is the kind of film that is an experiment, but the one that is more interesting and unique rather than truly fascinating or really great.

Boy & the World is technically such an astonishing achievement with such a one of a kind, colorful animation that is a feast for the eyes and the score which is just amazing and so moving, but the plot is anything but that as it isn’t handled properly at all and the film is more of an interesting than a particularly successful experiment.

My Rating – 3.5

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