Cláudio Assis is no stranger to controversy - his previous two films, Amarelo Manga and Baixio das Bestas shocked film-goers with its in-your-face imagery and outrageous characterisation. While his latest offering doesn't exactly fall short in its frankness, "A Febre do Rato" [Eng. Title: Rat Fever] is an altogether more celebratory film.
Zizo, a radical and anarchist poet living in a marginal quarter of Recife in the north eastern state of Pernambuco, distributes his social angst-filled thoughts through a publication named Febre do Rato, and spews poetry to anyone who'd listen. Dazed in stupor and having a penchant for older women, Zizo is happy young man with a loyal following among his unconventional friends, until he meets Eneida, a beautiful young woman who inspires but also frustrates him, for her reluctance to agree to sex, even though she's comfortable having fun with others. It becomes apparent that her love for him is more than physical, and his, close to devotional. We also observe the antics of his friends, and how they all form part of the fabric of the city. The film's climax culminates in the centre of the city on independence day, when Zizo performs a demonstration that's stopped by police.
The film is essentially an ode to the city of Recife itself ("a kiss in the mouth", as the director puts it); to liberty, freedom of expression, and inclusiveness. What makes this film a winner is the positive message and heartfelt performances by all the cast and crew, and I mean 'all'. Every one had laid their trust on Assis by giving themselves to the project. Irandhir Santos gives a convincing performance as Zizo, and is ably matched by the rest of the main cast in the film. Besides, almost everyone also appear in the nude at some point, including the veterans. The DVD extras state that they also had a problem with the local police while shooting some public scenes, which was thankfully resolved in an amicable manner.
The black and white cinematography is noteworthy with some impressive tracking shots made from unusual angles, but nothing here is embellished or tarted up. And yet it is fresh and full of vitality - with fine screenplay and characterisation, we learn to love them despite their flaws. The film is also aided by a funky and seductive soundtrack. To add a touch of authenticity, the verses used in the film is from a popular local poet who himself goes by the name of Zizo, also appearing in a cameo. Assis will no doubt have gained wider acceptance through this film, strong imagery notwithstanding. This may be a naughty rat, but it is charming in its own way - Highly Recommended Viewing..!
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The Nudity: Maria Gladys, Mariana Nunes, Victor Araújo, Hugo Gila, Juliano Cazarré, Nanda Costa, Irandhir Santos, Conceição Camaroti, and Tânia Granussi
Well - let's say most of the main cast appear nude at some point in the film.