Born to Overcome

Italian neorealism is conventionally read as the authoritative cinematic . and the returned soldiers was complex and fraught: although in the Comitato di . For example, in Cuori senza frontiere, Raf Vallone's ex-soldier returns to his tiny village . In the reduce's thirst for justice or vendetta the inadequacy of the legal.

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Since this example of exasperated drama of disenchantment, it has become impossible to insist on a pedagogical art akin to populism, and the years brought blatant opposition to that sense of popular mandate, whether from Cinema Novo or the so-called Cinema Marginal Underground Cinema , as Brazilians saw the rise of a cultural dissidence that refused any social teleology of redemption.

The model of the enlightened intellectual willing to raise a new popular consciousness prepared for national liberation faded. In the early s, film practice was contaminated by a sense of impotence that the film critic and writer Paulo Emilio Salles Gomes, in , turned into a formula: in terms of film, underdevelopment is not a stage with a progressive direction, it is a state of being. The best of Brazilian Cinema in the s turned around this bitter conviction, exploring family dramas, experiences of decadence, acute crises lived by frustrated characters who failed in their endeavours, or catastrophic peregrinations, of poor and rich alike, that ended in misfortune.

This kind of feeling towards the country still has its appeal in current films, at least in those most engaged in discussing social issues. This is arguably due to their being displaced by the high-profile discourse on national identity incorporated, since the s, by the rhetoric of the winner of the audio-visual battle in Brazil: the Globo Network.

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This TV channel now displays its hegemonic industrialized version of the national-popular issue in its telenovelas soap-operas. Also many films, especially those engaged in portraying history as a spectacle, tend to reproduce the ideas and the style of tele-fiction for marketing purposes.

Light comedy, historical satire and epic melodrama were the traditional genres, common to film and television, that those three filmmakers explored, following the established conventions, in order to communicate with large audiences.

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Such forms of spectacle suppose the transparency of the past and are not engaged in raising questions of representation. These are made visible only in low budget films concerned with self-expression and authorship, establishing forms of dialogue with the national experience different from the parameters created by classical cinema and television. Here the filmmakers strive for an original approach either to the contemporary scene or to well known episodes of the past, facing both the crisis of a more canonical realism and the necessary changes to be undertaken when the impulse is to rework the national allegorism initiated by Cinema Novo.

Canonical realism is rare. Violence is their major theme, character psychology their privileged field of discussion. In all, the critique of media comes to the foreground to deal with the opposition between the rules of media discourse and the rules of effective violence in society. Os matadores demystifies the professional killer after giving us the impression that we are looking at a genre film willing to seduce us through the exhibition of glaring violence and the celebration of friendship among peculiar characters devoted to a certain expertise.

The trajectory of the ambitious young protagonist, a car thief who leaves the big city and reaches a kind of frontier zone aspiring to become a famous killer, turns into a fiasco.

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Instead of an actionfilm we face the study of a psychological type, the exposure of the flaws of his precarious project paralleled by the fantasies lived by a Paraguayan who also follows the stereotype of the killer. Both characters fail and their story reveals a situation in which law and order have become a private affair. The State is absent, and law is administered by a local boss who counts on professional killers with no charm; they are just regular employees. The dramatic episode sets Dalva free from both but in undesirable circumstances.

A cidade de Camorr

At the end of the story, taken by the police, to whom she has to explain what happened in the house, she is devastated. First, he forces his way into the house and looks at Dalva's luggage all set to go. He takes a gun from a bag and points it at his own head: blackmail. Called by the neighbours, the police and a television crew surround the house; they talk about kidnapping. Interpreting his wish, she kills him just before all the apparatus set up outside reaches them to banalize their experience of a shared crisis which is more complex than the public opinion voiced by the TV reporter can grasp.

The scenes of their confrontation inside the house show quite well their inner anguish and shared feelings of love, desire and fear. Contrasting with this, the two melodramatic gazes, the mother's and the modern and powerful gaze of the TV, exude inadequacy, even stupidity. This critique of melodrama gives room to a realistic questioning based on an economy of psychological motivations tempered by occasional references to a socio-cultural background.

The first sequence shows an awkward confrontation in which a slum dweller, called Maguila, surprisingly kills a dangerous armed man linked to the drug dealers who control the favela. This is the first of a series of surprises.

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  • Branquinha, a sub-adolescent who is proud of her affair with Maguila, together with her friend Japa, flee from the favela, following the condemned Maguila. A succession of random turns leads them to a rich house exactly at the moment the owner is about to leave. The garage door is open and the proprietor who happens to be an American businessman looks at these unknown poor people with fear.

    The New Brazilian Cinema

    Again an unplanned kidnapping creates the basic framework for the action. A complicated series of events involving the police, and again television, leads the two children to their deaths. Inexperienced and always nervous, they end up killing each other in the house under the gaze of the bourgeois man and his daughter.

    From beginning to end the plot line follows a path created by sudden decisions, accidental gestures, unmotivated turns. Other films of the s are not so radical when exploring this motif of the accidental, but they also construct their plots around unexpected or singular encounters. We know that unexpected encounters are not new in fiction. But in this context they seem to create a paradigm that, observed film after film, creates a new sense of what is plausible in the representation of classical themes. And the films permeated by this renewed sense of failure display another recurrent feature of the new cinema: a screen full of disastrous gestures performed by resentful characters.

    Examples of authoritarian intimidation have been enacted in many Brazilian films since the s, and there is a recurrent scene that condenses a set of ideas about discretionary power: a character displays a gun to show off his own power and exhibits his knowledge in a speech about how to use a gun. Como nascem os anjos takes us to the city, where we see that same kind of attitude displayed by an exhibitionist gangster who addresses his companions and other curious people from the favela. Turning the tables, this last film produces an unexpected resolution of the scene.

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    Apart from this ironic inversion of competence, the scene marks a clear change in the source of intimidation, no longer the State but organized crime, a central motif in the new cinema. In Beto Brant's Os matadores, the gangsters are all professionals. The three films — Como nascem os anjos, Os matadores and Orfeu — make an effort not to romanticize the gangster. They deprive him of the aura of a representative of the people, moving away from the conception of the outlaw found in films from the s and s.

    Those were bandits whose violence, although seen as mistaken, had some legitimacy as an answer to social injustice. The outlaw could be a hero, and we followed his drama closely, suffering his defeat in a final cathartic moment. Now things have changed, and the most spectacular move in the representation of the bandit occurred exactly in the cangaceiro film already mentioned — Baile perfumado.

    Although limited in his consciousness of the more complex mechanisms of class domination, he was seen as someone not far from revolutionary action. There is no teleology linking him with the future revolution. In Baile perfumado there is no encapsulated world. Perfume, bottles of whisky, all appear in the cangaceiro land.

    In fact, the axis of the film is this singular encounter between the bandits and the filmmaker. In Rocha's film, there was vanity, but there was sacrifice and that longing for justice typical of the social bandit. Music and editing style celebrate him as a mass culture icon, a peculiar item in a gallery of masks that displaces politics in its myth-making process. From romanticism we pass to pop. In contemporary cinema, violence does not come out of the search for justice; it comes out of professional routines or, alternatively, from outbursts of rage on the part of frustrated characters not taken as spokesmen for values, but explored in their uncertainties as people mixed up in schemes that are beyond their control.

    There emerges a form of drama that responds to a world of tactical confrontations that do not seem to fit into strategies larger than the struggle for survival. Violence is acknowledged as a general rule, and it is something that might come when least expected; a fact that reinforces the motif of the singular encounter, a motif that, when linked to migration, reminds us of a new configuration of social networks that goes beyond Brazilian Cinema.

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    • Large displacements in space, and the interactions between local and alien elements, have had a significant effect on the dramatic structures of cinema in several countries. Wanderers, travelling characters, unexpected cross-cultural encounters are frequent in today's cinema, a kind of epochal symptom that Brazilian film comes to share even when it recounts events that took place in the past. In different ways, Brazilian films reveal their connection with the contemporary state of sensibility, showing their concern for the human aspects of the compression of space and time inherent in the world of high technology.

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      Djalma Batista's Bocage, o triunfo do amor Bocage, The Triumph of Love, presents a revision of cultural values associated with Portuguese colonization. The fresco of overseas expansion comprises the framework for the homage to the poet Bocage and, through him, the Portuguese language.

      They are adrift in Portugal, and their experience follows the pattern much explored in the US cinema: two lovers try to escape from a criminal organization.

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      Here the characters' involvement with criminals is taken as an undesired contingency — in the beginning, they have no other choice. Their sense of impotence finds its counterpoint in romantic, almost suicidal, gestures that seal the pact uniting the young couple in their escape. Disenchantment and libertarian impulses dominate a film that does not fail to mention the inaugural Portuguese adventure across the ocean, alluding to Brazil as a peripheral country that went wrong. Once in the house of the rich man, the children are taken to be invaders, and the fact that their supposed victim is an American does not change the central conflict in substantial terms.

      It is a detail that alludes to a certain conjuncture that frames the drama, but does not belong to the axis of the conflict between the children, the police and the television network. What matters here is that the role played by the American in Como nascem os anjos is equivalent to that of the Ambassador in Bruno Barreto's film. Both exhibit the same virtues: good sense, serenity and comprehension.

      A game of mirrors binds the two episodes, the kidnapping decided by politics and the pseudo-kidnapping carefully designed as an accident. Both films treat the American as an examplar of civility who uses his enforced predicament to observe with understanding nervous Brazilians who threaten or kill each other.

      There is an ironical lack of symmetry in these encounters, a sense of otherness that undermines effective contact. The time is New Year's Eve; the place, the top of a building in middle class district Leme, next to a favela. A young woman sees her marriage broken and plunges into an acute personal crisis.

      She goes to the top of the building to commit suicide. A fugitive, after killing a friend to fulfil his duty to the jailers who helped him escape, enters the same building and goes to the top to hide and survive. On this suspended stage the unexpected encounter takes place, alluding to an overall network of social relationships that is typical of Rio. The moment they get in touch is great but ephemeral, since the feast and the promised rebirth are effective only at the moment at which the bandit saves the little bourgeoise.

      Their lives have very few things to be shared, and he will be killed the next morning on the beach. Another dimension of the singular encounter involves the position of the filmmaker as citizen before the people he takes as his subject. This is clear when we think of documentary films but it also comes as a problem in some fiction films that deal with the poor.