With an interesting mix of international and Brazilian films being released over Easter week, take your pick between Charlize Theron playing a troubled author in the excellent Young Adult, by screenwriter Diablo Cody of Juno fame, or immerse yourself in indigenous Brazil in the super production Xingu, about how the eponymous reservation came into being. Add to that the French drama The Snows of Kilimanjaro, a film directed by Robert Guédiguian and inspired by a Victor Hugo poem, and you could say it's a divine mix.
This second partnership between director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody seems even better put together than their first one, Juno, which won a well-deserved Best Original Screenplay Oscar. Even though this movie didn’t get any recognition from the Academy, Young Adult offers a mature look on a character's refusal to grow up.
Charlize Theron plays an author of books aimed at the teenage (or ‘young adult’) market who, recently divorced, has the bad idea of returning to her home town to get back together with her high school sweetheart (Patrick Wilson). The fact that he is married with a baby are mere inconveniences for Theron and the more she humiliates herself, the more she is driven to complete this ‘project’.
As was the case with Juno, there’s no place for condescension in this film. Cody establishes a narrative arc with ease and, from there, has plenty of scope to throw some welcome curve balls into the story. In doing so, she avoids predictability and builds the narrative, layer after layer, with great care. Nothing feels forced and it's a pleasure to watch a movie in which the characters make us feel everything but bored.
Dir. Jason Reitman, USA, 2011. Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth Reaser, Collette Wolfe. 94 mins.
With a R$15.5 million budget, Xingu is the second most expensive film in Brazilian cinema history, the first being the biopic on Brazil’s former president, Lula, o Filho do Brasil. And in this case, it's definitely money well spent.
Five years after his last effort, with the acclaimed O Ano em que Meus Pais Saíram de Férias, about Brazil's military dictatorship as seen through the eyes of a child, director Cao Hamburger still has his camera focused on Brazil’s past. This time he takes us through the journey of the Villas-Bôas siblings in an expedition to the heart of Brazil, in the '40s.
Those familiar with Brazilian cinema will be reminded of Brincando nos Campos do Senhor, a film by Hector Babenco starring Tom Berenger, John Litgow and Darryl Hannah, about a couple of missionaries on an expedition to the Amazon Forest to convert local Indian tribes.
Hamburger, like Babenco, regards this Brazil of yore with the fearful eyes of someone who has just waken up from a nightmare. The ghost of invasion and the genocide of indigenous communities looms large.
Dir. Cao Hamburger, Brazil, 2012. João Miguel, Felipe Camargo, Caio Blat, Maiarim Kaiabi, Awakari Tumã Kaiabi, Maria Flor, Augusto Madeira. 102 mins.
Nostalgic viewers and anti-remake curmudgeons beware: this film by Robert Guédiguian has nothing to do with the 1952 Henry King classic, starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner, based on an Ernest Hemingway short story. This film was in fact inspired by Victor Hugo’s poem Les Pauvres Gens, and tells the story of a middle-aged couple Michel and Marie-Claire.
Michel, a syndicate leader, has just lost his job after refusing to take part in a lottery to choose twenty people to be fired from the company. With a trip scheduled to Kilimanjaro, the couple are mugged in a brutal fashion and – worse than the aggression itself – they find out the perpetrator of the crime is Michel’s former colleague, who’s going through a tough time. These events provide fertile ground for Guédiguian to ponder the ethical limits (or lack thereof) of human actions under stressful circumstances.
Dir. Robert Guédiguian, France, 2011. Ariane Ascaride, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Gérard Meylan, Marylene Canto. 90 mins.
Julia Roberts’s evil queen is probably the best part of this adaptation of the Snow White tale. The film has a farcical tone and its costume design and occasional dance numbers give it a little Bollywood flare. Shrek, with its clever parodying of fairy tales, is definitely an inspiration here. In other words, there’s a good chance that Mirror, Mirror will turn out to be a solid entertainment flick, in which irony will make its biting presence known, despite the generous dose of slapstick and shenanigans.
Dir. Tarsem Singh, EUA, 2012. Julia Roberts, Lily Conlins, Armie Hammer, Sean Bean. 106 mins.
Some of the footage uncovered in this documentary about the Santos football team has undeniable historical value. So, even those rooting for rival teams should forgive the praise lavished by some of the documentary’s talking heads and focus on what really matters: the amazing football being shown on the silver screen by some of the best players from Santos’ (and Brazil’s) past.
Dir. Lina Chamie, Brazil, 2012. 93 mins.