Lucia Murat's documentary A Long Journey tells an intimate story in order to paint the bigger picture concerning the most terrible period of Brazil’s military dictatorship that began in 1964. It is an intriguing approach, providing a view from the inside out (and into another time), with more to say than any didactic work possibly could.
This week’s film releases also offer plenty of escapist alternatives for those after a little simple distraction: Battleship arrives with little more than deafening bombast, while the well- intentioned The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel brings a respectable cast and a bittersweet plot to the big screen.
Lúcia Murat made her feature-length debut in 1988 with the grating Que Bom te Ver Viva (‘How Good to See You Alive’) giving the testimony of eight ex-militant women who were arrested and tortured by the military dictatorship, interspersed with a monologue by Irene Ravache. The structure of A Long Journey is similar, but the odyssey is more gut-wrenching because of the involvement of the director's own family the director's own family - Murat and her two brothers, Miguel and Hector.
An activist in the student movement, Murat was arrested in 1971, spending three years in prison. Fearful that her younger brother, Hector, might suffer the same fate, their parents sent him abroad, leaving him to embark on a different journey travelling for over nine years from the United States to India, through Afghanistan and Morocco, experimenting with drugs, mysticism, and finally, becoming a victim of schizophrenia. Their older brother, Michael, graduated in medicine and started a family.
The diverting paths of these three siblings help to illuminate one of the darkest periods of recent history in Brazil, in a documentary that is permeated by the idea of rupture; family, political and eventually mental.
Dir. Lúcia Murat, Brazil, 2012. Caio Blat, Lúcia Murat, Heitor Murat. 97 min.
Born in Iran and raised in Orange County, California, young Harvard graduate-turned director Massy Tadjedin's first feature film is a gentle tale about loyalty. A young couple (Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington) find themselves separated for a night and as he and an attractive work colleague (Eva Mendes) take a business trip, she is reunited with a lover from her past (Gillaume Cannet). The couple are forced to examine their experiences and make difficult choices about what they want to do with the rest of their lives.
Dir. Massy Tadjedin, USA, France, 2010. Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Eva Mendes, Gillaume Canet, Griffin Dunne, Anson Mount. Anson Mount. 93 min.
For weeks now, moviegoers have had to endure the incredibly noisy trailer for Battleship. Director Peter Berg – the man responsible for The Kingdom and Hancock – delivers on the promise that those clips hammered into our consciousness as a naval fleet encounters an unknown force on the high seas. Consider the character played by Bill Paxton in Aliens (the soldier Hudson, an annoying, dopily one-dimensional soldier), then imagine that before being destroyed by said aliens, he directed a movie. Well, that movie is Battleship. There is no better way to describe it. Oh, and Rihanna is in the cast.
Dir. Peter Berg, USA, 2012. Liam Neeson, Alexander Skasgard, Rihanna, Taylor Kitsch, Brooklyn Decker. 131 min.
A group of British pensioners set off for India to stay in a hotel described in the blurb as luxurious and newly renovated, but they arrive to find that the building is falling apart. Contrary to expectations (and all believability), the guests gradually become intoxicated by the colours and, well, the exoticism of the place. You already know what to expect: a story about what the politically correct jargon often calls the ‘best age’. In any case, the cast is heavyweight, and its director John Madden is the man responsible for the Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love, two or three centuries ago. Here, the message seems to go: be old, go to India and be happy. Or something like that.
Dir. John Madden, UK, 2011. Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton. 124 min.
The premise of this film may seem absurd, but it might just be a case of director Geoffrey Enthoven getting carried away with the old maxim that the story itself is less important than the way in which it’s told. The protagonists are three subjects in their twenties, all with some type of physical disability, willing to embark on a journey to Spain with a very clear goal: to have sex. In other words, just because they lead limited lives, they feel a tremendous urge to try something as basic as sexual pleasure. There’s nothing more human.
Dir. Geoffrey Enthoven, Belgium, 2011. Tom Audenaert, Isabelle de Hertogh, Gilles De Schrijver, Kimke Desart, Johan Heldenbergh. 115 min.
Light in Darkness: The Return of Red Light Bandit (Luz Nas Trevas – A Volta do Bandido da Luz Vermelha)
The Red Light Bandit was a classic film of Cinema Marginal ('Outcast Cinema') by Rogério Sganzerla released in 1968. Inspired by a true story, the director showed all the vigor and audacity of his then 22 years, building a narrative punctuated beautifully by the appropriated tone of the tabloid press (emphasized by radio narration), the ironic style of French director Jean-Luc Godard and pop culture. The original 'Bandit also succeeded in coupling experimentation with blockbuster-level success. Even today it remains a relevant work that's both politically powerful and entertaining.
Almost half a century later, Sganzerla's widow, Helena Ines, has shot a script left by her late husband that finds the old bandit (played by the singer Ney Matogrosso) still in jail and now succeeded by his outlaw son, Tudo-ou-Nada (‘All-or-Nothing’) played by André Lopes Warrior. Ignez resurrects Sganzerla's language and in doing so weaves a commentary on Brazil’s changes since 1968.
Dirs. Helena Ignez and Ícaro Martins, Brazil, 2012. Ney Matogrosso, André Guerreiro Lopes, Djin Sganzerla, Maria Luísa Mendonça, Simone Spoladore. Running time undisclosed.
Stop-motion animation from the creators of Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run, The Pirates! reiterates what the majority of moviegoers already knew: there is more intelligent life in the production of certain movies theoretically made for younger kids than in most of the 'adult' films that plague cinemas, as viewers of The Triplets of Belleville and Wall-E can attest.
Dirs. Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt, UK/USA, 2012. Voices by Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, David Tennant, Salma Hayek. 88 min.