Saturday, 28 January 2017

A film review: "A Bruta Flor do Querer" [2013 Brazil]

Dida Andrade and Andradina Azevedo script, direct, and star in their independent debut feature, "A Bruta Flor do Querer" [Eng. Title: The Savage Flower of Desire, aka Deep Blue Dream] about life and prospects for youth in a competitive and downbeat Sao Paulo.

Dida Andrade and Andradina Azevedo in "A Bruta Flor do Querer" Dida Andrade and Diana Mota in "A Bruta Flor do Querer" (2013)
From "A Bruta Flor do Querer" (2013) Andradina Azevedo and Dida Andrade in "A Bruta Flor do Querer" (2013)

The free flowing non-narrative gives a brief backstory to Diego (Dida Andrade), a promising film school graduate whose self-confidence is shattered the moment he enters the job market, and who's now reduced to shooting wedding videos for a living. He occasionally meets up with former students and drowns his sorrows in drugs and alcohol with his slightly better-off friend (Andradina Azevedo), who's promised to recommend him to an uncle producing a school play.

Diego tries to win over local belle Diana (Diana Motta) who works at a used books store, and a good chunk of screen time is dedicated to his desperate attempts to draw the courage and ask her out. The potential romance however unexpectedly fizzles out before it could take off, and leaves an already low Diego shattered.

After wallowing in his misery under a state of drug-fuelled stupor, Diego, in a moment of frenzy, walks out on his day job. Not making headway with the kids playing in the drama project, he and his friend decide to escape the city, its trappings, the failures and the loneliness, and head to the coast in search of chicks and new friends...

Separated into chapters in a Godardesque fashion, the film draws obvious pointers from the French New Wave even if a bit superficially. I was disappointed that the promising skyline of Sao Paulo doesn't get to play a greater role in the film, but to their credit, the directors do manage to challenge the audience into listening to their story, replete with warts and pimples, and without the feel-good factor of the boy getting his girl. For those who can look past the excessive use of drugs in the film (not nearly in an engaging, Trainspotting kinda way), it would be Recommended Viewing..!

DVD Purchase Link [NTSC]


The Nudity: Clara Andrezzo, Dida Andrade, Nara Lobo, Andradina Azevedo, Danielle Rosa, and Sue Nhamandu
Sex scenes inside a car feature twice in the film, and one of them is briefly explicit when the girl that Diego had picked up strokes his penis. The film also features a skinny-dipping scene and one where Diego hallucinates a girl (Nara Lobo) taunting him in German.

Danielle Rosa, Nara Lobo, Sue Nhamandu, and others from the Brazilian film, "A Bruta Flor do Querer" (2013).


Sunday, 22 January 2017

A changing society disected: "Niki and Flo" [2003 Romania]

Victor Rebengiuc and Mihaela Caracas in "Niki and Flo" (2003) Victor Rebengiuc and Dorina Chiriac in "Niki and Flo" (2003)
Victor Rebengiuc and Razva Vasilescu in "Niki and Flo" (2003) Victor Rebengiuc in "Niki and Flo" (2003)

At seventy, Liciane Pintilie hadn't lost any of his sardonic wit and biting satire when he made "Niki Ardelean, colonel în rezerva" [Eng. Title: Niki and Flo], a probing examination of conflict within a society that's changing suddenly and too fast for the liking of some traditionalists brought up in the communist ways.

Niki (Victor Rebengiuc), a retired army colonel, and Florian (Razvan Vasilescu) are neighbours, friends, who have also recently become in-laws - Niki's daughter Angela (Dorina Chiriac) is married to Florian's son Eugen (Serban Pavlu). The film begins with the funeral of Niki's son following a rather freak accident. Niki's sense of loss is palpable, but doesn't particularly mind being overshadowed by the more flamboyant Florian's event-organising skills.

But when Angela and Eugene announce that they'd got their papers to emigrate to the US, Niki is devastated and sees his family falling apart. He dissuades the couple from emigrating citing Angela's pregnancy, but Florian forcefully intervenes on their behalf and urges Niki to embrace modernity and change.

The couple waste little time in selling their belongings to fund their trip and when they bid their final goodbyes to leave for the airport, Niki could barely contain himself and collapses on the pavement. Their departure, and Niki's wife Poucha's (Coca Bloos) fading health adds to his anxieties. A video presented by Florian to Niki, of Angela and Eugen's wedding subtly brings to fore the latent tensions between the friends' families, and takes on a new meaning when Niki hears about Angela and Eugen only through a postcard sent exclusively to Florian. It leads to an unexpectedly shocking denouement...

Pintilie handles the film in his unique style by making piercing observations using a clever combination of realistic and absurd situations reminiscent of the Czech New Wave. Ably supported by his main cast and well produced, the film is a reminder of the director's abilities as an auteur who still has something new to say about his country. Needless to say, this almost forgotten little gem of a film is Highly Recommended Viewing..! DVD Link [PAL]


The Nudity: Dorina Chiriac, Serban Pavlu, and Razvan Vasilescu
In a long and memorably frank scene, Angela and Eugen, while discussing their finances concerning their travel, change subject halfway by talking about and feeling each other's genitals. Eugen asks Angela to either shave it regularly or leave a bit of pubic hair so that it doesn't cause him discomfort while having sex. Florian is briefly nude in the bath when he has an accident. There is also brief nudity when Angela undresses in the wedding video shot by her father in law.

Dorina Chiriac and Serban Pavlu from Lucian Pintilie's film, "Niki and Flo" (2003, Romania).


Tuesday, 10 January 2017

A film review: "Bufo & SPallanzani" [2001, Brazil]

Wishing you all a happy 2017!


Bufo & Spallanzani Maitê Proença and Tony Ramos in "Bufo & Spallanzani" (2001)
Tony Ramos, Isabel Guéron, and José Mayer in "Bufo & Spallanzani" (2001) Isabel Guéron and José Mayer in "Bufo & Spallanzani" (2001)
José Mayer and Tony Ramos in "Bufo & Spallanzani" (2001) Isabel Guéron in "Bufo & Spallanzani" (2001)

Flávio Tambellini's thriller "Bufo & Spallanzani" is a dramatisation of popular Brazilian novelist Rubem Fonseca's novel by the same. The title alludes to tortuous experiments conducted by an Italian scientist - Spallanzani, to study a frog's regenerative capacity sometime during the nineteenth century.

The film begins with the discovery of socialite Delfina's (Maitê Proença) body in her car at a wooded area. With a bullet wound through her heart and a pistol by her side, initial investigations point towards a suicide, but forensic analysis, conducted on the insistence of shrewd investigator Guedes (Tony Ramos) reveals a murder.

The plot thickens when Flávio (José Mayer), a bestselling author, visits Guedes with his girlfriend Minolta (Isabel Guéron). He admits to being in an intimate relationship with Delfina, and apart from accusing Delfina's husband Delamare of murdering his wife, also claims that Delamare is out to get kill him too after discovering the affair.

Running parallel to this story is Flávio's previous life from a decade ago when he, then called Ivan Canabrava, used to work for Delamare's insurance company as a claims investigator. He lands himself in hot water after he unearths a false claim that Delamare himself seems to have been party to, and had to 'disappear' with new girlfriend Minolta - he takes on a new identity and becomes a writer.

The incorruptible and dogged sleuth in Guedes refuses to buy Flavio's version of events, but he however agrees that Flavio's life is indeed in danger and arrives on time to rescue him. In the meantime, Guedes is under immense pressure from his boss to close the case due to people higher up bearing down upon him to hush things up...

I haven't read the novel myself, but judging by the intricate plot, I couldn't help wondering that the sense of suspense was lost in translation on several occasions, and some facets that might have inquired the mind during a read nevertheless get mixed up with mundane events in the film. Regardless of these tiny flaws, it is a valiant attempt at a genre that Brazilian cinema, unlike neighbouring Argentina, hasn't been that much accustomed to. The soundtrack is appealing, and the technicians have done a good job in putting it together. For anyone who enjoys intelligent mainstream films, it is of course, Recommended Viewing..!

DVD Purchase Link [NTSC]


The Nudity: Maitê Proença and Isabel Guéron
There is brief nudity from Maitê Proença during a sex scene, but those of Isabel Guéron's character Minolta, akin to a Brazilian version of Crystal Fairy, are certainly among the more memorable scenes in the film. She appears nude in at least three well-lit scenes.

Isabel Guéron in scenes from the Brazilian thriller, "Bufo & Spallanzani" (2001)