São Paulo, Sociedade Anônima (1965)

4 03 2008

It was not done on purpose, but this ended up fitting quite nicely alongside a lot of the recent “finding one’s self” type dramas that I’ve been watching lately. Unfortunately, unlike some of the aforementioned films, this still has yet to find an audience, which isn’t surprising since it seems like every Brazilian film made during this time period falls into a similar category. If judging only from this film, Luís Sérgio Person has everything it takes to become a big figure in the art film, but I guess he was just unlucky.

Carlos is 25 and working for the Volkswagon company right around the time of the auto industry boom in Brazil. He is successful, to a degree, but also extremely lonely. Told through a series of ellipses, we are introduced to his many romantic relationships all of which end up being problematic. The first girl is Ana who often lies about visiting her ill grandmother to get Carlos off her back. She definitely likes him, though, but he is unsure what he feels towards her mostly because she wants real life to be like a Mexican movie and Carlos hates Mexican movies. The next girl we’re introduced to is Luciana, who Carlos meets while attending an English class. They eventually marry, but in the mean time the final woman, Hilda, is thrown into the mix. It’s implied that she’s a prostitute but she still treats Carlos as a friend. Her death doesn’t shock him, but it does launch him into a marathon of memories which occupy most of the film’s time.

The main character, Carlos, takes awhile to warm up to. It’s easy to sympathize with his cause but within the first ten minutes we get a montage of him slapping Ana suspecting her participation in an affair. Not much later, he defends his awkward reactions as “being honest” which impress Luciana but eventually back fire on her at the end of film. All the characters have very impulsive way of responding to situations which seems realistic considering how reserved they are the rest of the time.

This isn’t the most original film in terms of overall aesthetic, in fact at times it seems like a lot of is lifted from Bertolucci’s great Before the Revolution but still it is really ahead of its time. The voiceover has that poetic gracefulness that I love and it seems like it is always used in the right places. The family dinner sequence is a perfect example of this, which sort of leads me into another really great thing – the humor. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen something with that type of awkward, messed-up situation humor that I tend to associate with Paul Morrissey’s films. There’s plenty of like-minded sequences here. The most memorable is when Carlos tries to inform Luciana’s father of their marriage while her younger brother is watching TV in the same room, or when Carlos starts talking to business partner while watching little kids throw rocks. These scenes sound simply silly on paper, but Person breathes this almost surreal type of life in them that make hilarious and poignant. This does run out of steam towards the end but still for the most part, this is perfect film making to me. A perfect introduction to Cinema Novo: I’m hooked now.

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