Friday, 1 November 2013

Smell the coffee: "O Cheiro do Ralo" [2006 Brazil]

"God created the world, but it was man who created comfort, and also garbage - to keep idle people busy..." This is an excerpt translated from the conversation between Lourenço and Lourenço in a scene that vividly captures the film's biting satire. Lourenço is our protagonist, portrayed brilliantly by Selton Mello, and his namesake is the writer himself, upon whose novel director Heitor Dhalia's "O Cheiro do Ralo" [Eng. Title: Drained] is based. The original title literally translates as 'The smell from the drain', which is more to-the-point than the vagueness the official English title carries.

Dhalia has managed to weave an intricate metaphor for modern society with the help of an outwardly superficial tale of an alienated man obsessing over two things - the impressive ass of a beautiful restaurant waitress (Paula Braun), and the stench emanating from a blocked toilet sink in his office. Both issues are within his grasp of addressing - the woman herself is keen on dating him, and a plumber is also willing to fix his sink. Paradoxically, he refuses the offers - in relation to the waitress and her imensa bunda, he prefers to own rather than "marry" her ass, and in relation to the blocked sink, he believes the plumber is trying to fleece him, and nonchalantly remarks that he'll pay the quoted fee only if the plumber also eats whatever is clogging his sink.

As outrageously unpleasant a man Lourenço is, he is also someone who's completely lost in a world - this world - of false values, exploitation, and the craze for power, and where truly worthy things are treated as garbage and vice versa. It is also underscored in Lourenço's dealings as a pawnbroker - buying valuable and sentimental memorabilia from desperate people at a fraction of their actual worth, whilst paying exorbitantly for ridiculously mundane items for the perceived pleasure he might derive from it. One such item is a glass eyeball that Lourenço proudly carries around with him - it's a metaphor in itself, which director Dhalia uses to help explain his protagonist's distorted vision of what's good and not. The satirical film pulls no punches in criticising present values and morals that'll resonate with not just Brazilian, but any modern audience.

There may also be a symbolic correlation between Lourenço's twin obsessions - an object desired and worshipped when seen from outside (a beautiful ass), and its intended natural function that people tend to selectively blank out (alongside the maintenance of a sink-hole associated with the function). Not too pleasant to watch at times, the film is nevertheless thought provoking, and asks its intended adult audience to reflect upon themselves through Lourenço's identity and human crisis. It is thanks to Dhalia's fine screenplay and direction, Selton Mello's remarkable rendition of his character as at once charming and utterly despicable, and the committed performances from the main cast, notably Silvia Lourenço who plays an impoverished junkie, that this minuscule-budgeted gem of a film is as beautiful and moving as it is provocative. Laced with dark humour, irony, sarcasm and dry wit, a casual viewer might dismiss the film as just another tasteless comedy, but they're missing the point. Highly Recommended Viewing..!

DVD Order Link [NTSC]


The Nudity: Paula Braun, Sílvia Lourenço, and Lorena Lobato
There are four scenes involving nudity, two of which feature Silvia Lourenço - in the first Lourenço propositions her character to strip for cash that she desperately needs, and in the second, she strips even when Lourenço asks her not to, because he'd just given away all his money. She vents her frustration by complaining to people outside that he molested her, and upon seeing her with no clothes on, they take her for her word and go after Lourenço. The DVD includes some additional cuttings of the second Sílvia Lourenço scene in the 'Making of' documentary. Paula Braun plays the waitress, and in a scene eventually agrees to show Lourenço her ass for money - she would have offered herself willingly, but Lourenço is either unwilling or incapable of getting involved emotionally, and insists on 'buying' himself the right to see her naked. Pretty Lorena Lobato plays a married woman who drops by to do some trade with Lourenço, and is offered wads of cash to strip for him in a scene that's also the kinkiest of the lot, where we're cynically shown a respectable housewife transform into a slut using required incentives.

Paula Braun, Sílvia Lourenço, and Lorena Lobato nude in O Cheiro do Ralo aka Drained


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