For those not familiar with the history of Brazil’s Tropicália movement, this documentary by Marcelo Machado offers an excellent gateway to the subject. The film begins with a burst of images in rapid succession – scenes from films that influenced the movement, concerts from the era and a mishmash of photographs decorated with colourful, fluorescent splotches of paint – a well-crafted collage and an intriguing glimpse into what took place during the period.
Intelligent and gripping, the film covers the subject by zooming in from two different angles. First, we hear testimonies by the movement’s leading lights (Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Rogério Duarte and others) from back in the day, laid over images from the era. When we reach the words of Rita Lee, Sérgio Dias and Arnaldo Baptista, from the band Os Mutantes, there’s a rupture in the sequence – like the guitars and rock music the band brought to Tropicália music – and the film moves to focusing on the artists in the present day, looking back and reminiscing.
With fine timing and aesthetic sensibilities, plus the bonus of first-hand testimonies from the main protagonists of the pivotal musical and cultural moment, Tropicália doesn’t delve deep into the movement’s history, but instead reveals a series of gripping images and words concerning the reviravolta (‘turning-point’) aesthetic that marked the period, with rare footage including that of Caetano and Gil playing onstage at the Isle of Wight festival.
Note: the film is in Portuguese.