Moacyr Góes' delightfully gaudy "O Homem Que Desafiou o Diabo" [Eng. Title: The Man Who Challenged the Devil] is not your everyday comedy, even if it might appear outwardly so at first glance.
The film, about the hilarious adventures of a once-travelling salesman named José Araújo (Marcos Palmeira), liberally borrows themes from different genre to sugar-coat a deep irony it carries. As the title suggests, our hero does battle with the devil (Helder Vasconcellos), but there is also a separate albeit subtle battle being waged by the film's creator - he introduces stereotypes and myths of various kinds through the central character's adventures, only for them to be shattered - the film spews life-truths that mainstream comedies wouldn't normally touch with a barge pole.
Here, a forty year old virgin turns into a nymphomaniac, a wealthy and virtuous young woman dumps the love of her life to become a prostitute, and the lead female character - an opportunistic trick-turner, will become the heroic figure that the central character will fall in love with. Everyone, save the devil, will break stereotype and established clichés. Talking of breaking stereotypes - in how many mainstream films have you seen the lead's love interest (and darling of the audience) loose two front teeth for the sake of a gag, and stay that way till the end! The bitter-sweet ending is also more in keeping with a classic Spaghetti Western or a Alejandro Jodorowsky, than a conventional comedy.
Despite some local nuances completely escaping me as a foreigner - some dialogues spoken in dialect fail to make sense even with subtitles - it shouldn't put people off completely because there is also comedy of a universal kind to keep you engaged. The first part of the film, about Araújo's totally unplanned marriage to virgin Dualiba (played brilliantly by Lívia Falcão) is replete with visual humour. Palmeira himself is magnificent as the naive Araújo who changes into lone ranger and avenger Ojuara (his original name spelt backwards).
Fernanda Paes Leme is adorable as Ojuara's love interest - a prostitute called Genifer, and Flávia Alessandra is spectacular as sorceress Mãe de Pantanha (with a carnivorous vagina). There's also a hilarious hunchback (Leon Goes) whose role must sure have been fun to play. The over-the-top lighting effects lend atmosphere to the film, and the chaotic compositions - authenticity. The entertaining film also gives us something to mull over at the end - certainly Highly Recommended Viewing..!
Amazon DVD Link [NTSC]
The Nudity: Marcos Palmeira, Fernanda Paes Leme, Flávia Alessandra, and Juliana Porteus
With an epic screenplay surrounding a protagonist obsessed with women, the intermittent scenes of sex and nudity is perhaps predictable. The cute and sexy Fernanda Paes Leme sizzles in most of her scenes, but credit should also go to Marcos Palmeira whose character make the lovely ladies he meets even more desirable.