FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL 2021: KING CAR (2021)

Carro Rei

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DIRECTED BY: Renata Pinheiro

FEATURING: Luciano Pedro, Jr., Clara Pinheiro, Matheus Nachtergaele, Jules Elting

PLOT: Born inside a car, Uno grows up being able to talk with it; later in life he reconnects with this old friend after a second family mishap.

WHY IT MIGHT JOIN THE APOCRYPHA: A couple individual flourishes on their own just about lock it (crotch glow-strip Hebreic  “Dead” stamp-panties, car-comm-harmonica), but the thematic fusion of ecological preachifying; Futurism v. (utopian) Communism; and human-vehicular intimacy easily propel King Car into candidate class.

COMMENTS: King Car has a lot of surprises under the hood, particularly as a vehicle for some pertinent socio-philosophical musings: the relation between man and his machines, machines and the natural world, and the natural world and man. This triangle of ideas pivots around the heavy-handed precept that technology has become detrimental to mankind. If her film is an accurate representation of her philosophy, Renata Pinheiro probably thinks we should have slammed the brakes on our scientific advancement at the Amish age. She has no love for cars, something made abundantly clear; more intriguingly, she seems also to have sympathy for the doleful hunks of rust.

Uno is his parents’ first and only son. The mother owns a junkyard overseen by her brother Zé, one of those holy fools that crops up every now and again in family trees and moralistic stories. The father owns a fleet of taxis. Uno is born in the back-seat of a car driven by his father; the journey to a hospital interrupted by some rogue bovines. Uno can talk to this car, and takes it very personally when it seems the car allows his mother to die in a crash. Uno forswears automotive technology, takes up cycling, joins a coop, and aces his agroforestry exam. This displeases his father, who had hoped the boy would take over the family business. When a new regulation banning cars older than fifteen years takes effect, the father suffers a medical emergency, bringing Uno back to his home to face his fears—including the car that “killed” his mother. As it is turned back on, it begins talking with Uno once more.

Innumerable themes and allusions crash together in King Car. There are erotic human/car interactions (read: sex scenes), and anyone who’s seen anything in that sub-genre will immediately think of Crash. (This movie takes out the middle man, so to speak, having the action between just woman and sentient automobile.) Eco-socialist sloganeering competes with, and then morphs into, Futurist rants about the rise of the machine. Tetsuo gets a nod later in the film, when Uno is trapped inside his car’s trunk, which has become an electro-embryonic “This is Your Life” chamber. There are even hints of Colossus: the Forbin Project when Uncle Zé is fixing up “King Car”, following the vehicle’s directions on how to upgrade his frame and make him a vocal unit.

King Car often annoyed me—I know too much about the precedent of cooperative farm-induced famines to overlook idealistic ramblings about the practice—but these occurrences were quickly glossed over when it shifted gears, which was often. A car conspiracy develops, a romance one of the eco-hippies alternately blossoms and withers, and Uncle Zé is always a spectacle worth beholding (imagine a love-child of Dominique Pinon and Jack Nance). Like the titular character after his upgrade, it’s a smorgasbord of disparate parts. However, to resurrect a metaphor, it’s well worth a spin.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“The DNA of Christine and Holy Motors flows through the core of Renata Pinheiro’s dystopian carsploitation flick, King Car… a fascinating, eccentric, and bold piece of Brazilian cinema.” -Christopher Cross, Tilt

2 thoughts on “FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL 2021: KING CAR (2021)”

  1. I was not as big a fan of this as Giles was (but I’m a harsher grader in general). It didn’t really gain traction for me either on its own terms or as a political metaphor. Perhaps if I were Brazilian, or just better tuned in to their political climate, it would have engaged me more.

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