The documentary A Long Journey, by Lucia Murat, tells an intimate story in order to paint a 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), and it has much more to tell us than any didactic work possibly could.
On the other hand, this week’s film releases also offer plenty of escapist alternatives for those viewers only interested in being distracted: 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 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 given by Irene Ravache. The structure of A Long Journey is similar, but the odyssey is more gut-wrenching, since the director's own family is the involved – more specifically, she and her two brothers, Miguel and Hector.
An activist of the student movement, Murat was arrested in 1971, spending three years in prison. Fearful that her younger brother, Hector, might suffer the same fate, his parents sent him out of the country. Hector would then take another type of journey on the road (traveling over nine years to many countries, from the United States to India, through Afghanistan and Morocco), experimenting with drugs, mysticism, and finally, becoming a victim of schizophrenia. Meanwhile, her older brother, Michael, graduated in medicine and started a family.
The paths of these three siblings, especially Hector, help to illuminate one of the darkest periods of recent history in Brazil. Murat’s documentary is permeated by the idea of rupture, in the realms of the familiar, the political, and, ultimately, the psychological.
Dir. Lúcia Murat, Brazil, 2012. Caio Blat, Lúcia Murat, Heitor Murat. 97 min.
Born in Iran and raised in Orange County, California, the young director Massy Tadjedin who graduated in English Literature from Harvard makes her first feature film a gentle tale about loyalty. A young couple (Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington) find themselves separated for one night. He travels on business with a colleague (Eva Mendes) whom he feels a strong attraction to – something that does not go unnoticed by his wife – while she is reunited with a lover from her past (Gillaume Cannet). The couple must then examine their recent experiences and make 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 moviegoers have suffered with the incredibly noisy trailer of this film. Director Peter Berg – the same one responsible for The Kingdom and Hancock – presents Battleship, and delivers on the promise that the trailer banged in our eyes and ears: a naval fleet faces an unknown force on the high seas. Consider the character played by Bill Paxton in Aliens, the soldier Hudson, an extremely annoying and dopily one-dimensional military guy. Now, imagine that before being destroyed by those aliens, he directed a movie. Well, this is Battleship. I can’t think of a better way to describe it. Oh, yes: Rihanna’s in the cast.
Dir. Peter Berg, USA, 2012. Liam Neeson, Alexander Skasgard, Rihanna, Taylor Kitsch, Brooklyn Decker. 131 min.
A bunch of British pensioners embark for India. Their plan is to stay in a hotel described in its ads as luxurious and newly renovated, but they arrive to find that the building is falling apart. Contrary to expectations (and all believability), 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 is: 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 accomplished the feat of combining experimentation and blockbuster-level success. Even today it remains a relevant work that's both politically powerful and entertaining.
Almost half a century later, the widow of Sganzerla, Helena Ines, shot a script left by her husband, who died in 2004. At the same time we find that the old villain is still in jail (performed by Ney Matogrosso), he’s succeeded by his outlaw son, Tudo-ou-Nada (‘All-or-Nothing’) played by André Lopes Warrior. Ignez reuses Sganzerla's grammar and in doing so, weaves a commentary on Brazil’s changes since 1968. The outcome, however, and unlike the original movie, points in another direction, a rebirth already suggested from the film’s title.
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 know: there us more intelligent life in the production of certain movies theoretically made for younger kids than in most 'adult films' that plague cinemas. Anyone who has seen those mentioned above and such masterpieces as The Triplets of Belleville and Wall-E is fully aware of this.
Dirs. Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt, UK/USA, 2012. Voices by Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, David Tennant, Salma Hayek. 88 min.