Monday, 20 January 2014

A review: "Amarelo Manga" [2002 Brazil]

Cláudio Assis makes a stirring feature-film début with his brilliant observational drama "Amarelo Manga" [Eng. Title: Mango Yellow]. It's about a section of the populace from his home town Recife, which he follows during the course of a day.

"The human being is just stomach and sex", mutters a jobless priest to himself as he makes his way past a dilapidated church in a run-down quarter of Recife - a quarter seething with despair, anger, and lust. It's a part of the city that has yet to learn how to dream, and respond to something other than its base instincts. As the day runs its course, we witness events that will flare up emotions amongst its inhabitants, leading to unforeseen consequences. It has happened before, and is bound to happen again because, no matter how frustrated they're towards the end of each day, nothing will change - circumstances have condemned them to wallow in their own biological and sexual excesses.

Fiery bar owner Lígia (Leona Cavalli) is bitter about time passing her by without the prospect of finding love, time she often spends fighting off lecherous advances from seedy middle aged clients. Hell breaks loose after the modest and ardently evangelical Kika (Dira Paes) catches butcher-husband Wellington (Chico Díaz) having sex with Daisy (Magdale Alves) - Kika will become in her own words, "dead from inside". Flamboyantly gay Dunga (Matheus Nachtergaele) - a cook at the gloriously derelict Texas Hotel, fancies Wellington, and will go to lengths in trying to rid competition from the two women already in the butcher's life. Aurora (Conceição Camaroti), an acute asthmatic, spends most of her time with an oxygen mask, worrying about death. And finally we have Isaac (Jonas Bloch), an unpleasant German with a totally weird fetish - he'll spend a frustrating day trying to bed, or dream of bedding the explosive Lígia.

Assis' outrageously colourful characters, to which every cast member gave their all in fleshing out, are as riveting as they're jarring. Particularly Matheus Nachtergaele (of City of God fame), who completely takes over his character that more or less holds the film together. Another feature of this film is its exceptional cinematography. Aided by the deft and fluid camera work of Assis-regular Walter Carvalho and sharp editing of Paulo Sacramento, Assis uses every opportunity to give us an unforgettable and revealing montage of the city of Recife and its characters. Also of mention is the eclectic soundtrack, heady and intoxicating in equal measure. The film is a landmark in modern Brazilian cinema and is Highly Recommended Viewing..!


About the DVD:
The one sold in Amazon at the time of posting is of poor quality and doesn't do the film justice. Apart from it having hard-coded subtitles, the letterboxed DVD has poor colour transfer and is also blurry. I had sold mine and have since bought one directly from Brazil. It's a pain ordering one from there but I'd still recommend it - even if it doesn't contain any extras, the DVD comes with two options - full frame and anamorphic widescreen, both of which are significantly better in quality than the one sold by Amazon.

Recommended DVD Link | Instant Video


The Nudity: Leona Cavalli, Dira Paes, Conceição Camaroti, and Jonas Bloch
Apart from two other nude scenes, there's an 'in-your-face' vaginal shot of Leona Cavalli when her character flashes confrontationally at Isaac in the bar, in broad view of customers. Conceição Camaroti's character is shown masturbating with her gas mask on one occasion. Apart from a shower scene, Dira Paes (some may remember her from The Emerald Forest) appears nude alongside Jonas Bloch in a steamy sex scene culminating in a stinging sensation for one of them, thanks to a hairbrush. Ms. Paes' character had only just chewed off part of a ear belonging to the woman having an affair with her husband, when she's approached by Isaac. Unforgettable..! :-)

Leona Cavalli, Dira Paes, Conceição Camaroti, and Jonas Bloch nude in Amarelo Manga aka Mango Yellow


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