RARA-AVIS: Cities...

From: Steve Novak ( Cinefrog@comcast.net)
Date: 29 Feb 2008

Well, besides the vile Village Voice there is the NYT (another despicable commie rag), but in it today we find a review of new Brazilian movie related in many ways to the City of God that some of you discussed recently...Here¹s the review...it might be of interest...

Montois Cinefrog@comcast.net

February 29, 2008 Fathers and Sons in Gloom Above Rio¹s Sunny Beaches

By STEPHEN HOLDEN The most disquieting moment in ³City of Men,² a rootin¹-tootin¹ gangster movie shot in the notoriously lawless shantytowns overlooking the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, is also the most subdued. Acerola, a k a Ace (Douglas Silva), an 18-year-old still carrying baby fat, admits that he is frightened and unprepared to care for his infant son as his wife, Cris (Camila Monteiro), leaves to find work in S㯠Paulo. Although Ace loves his little boy, he is only a child in a man¹s body himself, and he begs her not to go. For him to assume full parental responsibility is almost unimaginable.

In ³City of Men,² directed by Paulo Morelli, Ace¹s reluctance is more the rule than the exception. In the strutting, drug- and gun-infested culture of the favelas, young men who sire children aren¹t expected to acknowledge them, and their tough, sullen wives and girlfriends have little choice but to tolerate the situation or leave. That¹s just the way it is in a hyper-macho environment with virulent homophobia.

Underneath their swagger, these teenage gangsters brood about the absence of their own fathers. Ace¹s best friend, Laranjinha, a k a Wallace (Darlan Cunha), who is days short of turning 18, is especially obsessed with his own paternity. As he approaches the numerical demarcation between child and adult, when he will need an identification card stating his last name, he embarks on a concerted search for his father based on neighborhood rumor.

Mr. Morelli¹s film is a companion piece (not strictly a sequel) to ³City of God,² the 2002 global hit directed by his longtime collaborator Fernando Meirelles that featured some of the same actors, including Mr. Silva and Mr. Cunha playing 11-year-olds. The new movie, written by Elena SoᲥz, is spun off from a successful Brazilian television series of the same title that was shown on the Sundance Channel and is available on DVD. (Mr. Meirelles was a creator of the television series and is a producer of the new film.)

³City of Men² has a more humane, you might say bleeding-heart, perspective on this anarchic culture than ³City of God.² The first movie offered a startling, documentarylike picture of social decay in which the steady influx of drugs and guns over several generations transformed depressed neighborhoods into war zones. As the weaponry grew more deadly, the age of the warriors fell, and in the movie¹s later scenes, the opposing forces were child armies mowing one another down with lethal toys.

Where ³City of God² had the hard-boiled attitude of an expos頦ilmed on site with hand-held cameras and rapid jump cuts, ³City of Men² is a more conventionally structured melodrama. The nihilism of the first movie has been softened enough to suggest that this culture of violence may not be quite so extreme as the earlier movie portrayed. Amid the organized sociopathy in which allegiances are continually shifting, and people are literally shooting one another in the back, true friendships are perilous but not hopeless undertakings.

The movie¹s all-out warfare begins when Nefasto (Eduardo B R Piranha), a henchman of the charismatic boss of bosses, Madrugad㯬 a k a Midnight
(Jonathan Haagensen), betrays him and with a new posse occupies his turf on Dead End Hill. Midnight mounts an even larger and deadlier response. Like those in ³City of God,² the battle scenes show herds of armed juvenile soldiers swarming like locusts down the steep, terraced hills. As the war spreads, Ace and Wallace accidentally find themselves on opposite sides.

Wallace eventually finds his father, Heraldo (Rodrigo Dos Santos), who served 15 years of a 20-year sentence for murder. The wariness of the father when confronted with the neediness of the son indicates that it is far too late for their bond to become more than superficial. Though probably only in his mid-30s, Heraldo exudes an air of defeat. The thrill of youthful armed combat has faded into fatigue and desperation. Twenty years hence, Wallace, if he survives, will probably be just like him.

That the sins of the fathers are passed on to the sons is the somewhat thudding message of a movie that hammers home its point by having Ace and Wallace reach an impasse in their friendship that parallels the relationship of their fathers two decades earlier. In a society of fatherless boys craving role models, glamorous outlaws fill the void.

³City of Men² is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It has strong language and scenes of violence but is not gory.


Opens on Friday nationwide.

Directed by Paulo Morelli; written (in Portuguese, with English subtitles) by Elena SoᲥz, based on a story by Mr. Morelli and Ms. SoᲥz; director of photography, Adriano Goldman; edited by Daniel Rezende; music by Antonio Pinto; art director, Rafael Ronconi; produced by Andrea Barata Ribeiro, Bel Berlinck, Fernando Meirelles and Mr. Morelli; released by Miramax Films. Running time: 1 hour 51 minutes.

WITH: Douglas Silva (Acerola), Darlan Cunha (Laranjinha), Jonathan Haagensen
(Madrugad㯩, Rodrigo Dos Santos (Heraldo), Camila Monteiro (Cris), Naima Silva (Camila), Eduardo B R Piranha (Nefasto), Luciano Vidigal (Fiel) and Pedro Henrique (Caju).

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