Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The story of a prostitute: "Bruna Surfistinha" [2011 Brazil]

Brazilian attitudes towards sex is one of the more enigmatic aspects of their culture, where traditional Roman Catholic values sit side-by-side with an apparently uninhibited and tolerant sexuality. Marcus Baldini's directorial début is the biopic "Bruna Surfistinha" [Eng. Title: Little Surfer Girl], based on a book (The Scorpion's Sweet Venom) by Raquel Pacheco aka Bruna Surfistinha - a prostitute who earned fame and notoriety after her sensational blog became one of the most followed in all of Brazil. Ms. Pacheco makes a guest appearance in the film as well, as a restaurant hostess greeting her character's namesake with a client.

The film charts the chosen journey of teenage Raquel (Deborah Secco) from a respectable middle class family to the world of prostitution. It begins with her leaving home and joining a brothel. She'll soon progress into an independent high-class call girl (or program girl, as they're called). She will maintain a blog recounting her sexual exploits, also using it to rate her clients' performance in bed. The blog will gain popularity and she'll be invited to appear on national television that'll make her a celebrity of sorts. But fame will also cause her downfall, after her drug abuse chases away prime customers, leading to a downward spiral that'll draw her towards the gutters before emerging back from the brink.

Since the film is drawn from real events, it is not for me to reason why Raquel aka Bruna chose to do what she did, nor is there a need for her actions to be justified compellingly. Her transformation started from a desire to become independent, and prove to herself that she could make it on her own. After a disgruntled classmate publishes compromising pictures he'd secretly taken of her, she runs away from home to join a brothel, as if it were her only career option. She starts a blog intending to talk about herself, not quite expecting to become a household name in the process.

But as far as the film-making is concerned, I do have a problem with the casting choice for the protagonist Raquel. Deborah Secca, while she's attractive and performs rather well in the film, is perhaps older for the part she plays, and her early scenes as a teenager require some convincing. Besides, there is this vexed question about the sheer number of films made these days on women choosing to become prostitutes. Whether they're shown earning their way through college, feeding a family, or simply seeking pleasure, these films, right from Belle de jour to whatever comes next, seem to do rather well commercially. I wonder if it is to do with men's eternal fascination for a soul-mate who could be their whore in bed, or perhaps a reflection of women's own desire to be able to exercise their free will when it comes to sex.

For what it is, the film, whilst having its various light and dark moments, retains the tone of someone pursuing a glamorous or even covet-worthy profession. It has scenes of a sexual nature right until the final few minutes. But the film is also aimed at a mainstream audience - for the most part suggesting rather than portraying details of the goings on. The sound track is good, but as far as the direction and cinematography is concerned, I had the feeling of watching a TV film rather than a feature film.

DVD Order Link [NTSC] | Blu-ray Order Link
The Scorpion's Sweet Venom: Amazon Book Link


The Nudity: Deborah Secco and others
Ms. Secco appears intermittently nude throughout the film alongside various male partners, and in some scenes, seen completely nude.

Deborah Secco nude in Bruna Surfistinha aka Little Surfer Girl


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