Tag Archives: Brazilian

IT CAME FROM THE READER-SUGGESTED QUEUE: ANALOG (2012)

DIRECTED BY: Ebbëto

FEATURING: Fábio Norat, Giovanna Velasco

PLOT: An android tasked with guarding a lone man in hibernation on a deep-space journey takes radical steps to protect his charge, including creating a female companion and acting to protect the pair from sin.

Still from Analog (2012)

COMMENTS: Surely we’ve learned by now that leaving an artificial intelligence in charge of the future of all life on a lengthy space voyage is a risky proposition. The supergenius mainframe might become homicidal. A highly damaged android might implant the embryos of a malevolent race of unstoppable killers. An autopilot might plot to prevent humanity from returning to its ancestral home. There’s a good argument that those pesky AIs can’t be trusted with our safety at all, and Analog provides us with a new reason to be skeptical: the dang thing might try to become God.

Filmmaker Ebbëto (in addition to directing, he also takes credits for screenplay, cinematography, editing, and 2D animation) makes his intentions clear in his own description of the film: “Strange events with biblical analogies begin to occur, disturbing the machine and making it rethink its priorities.” The obviousness is not overstated. Sensing his charge’s loneliness, The Machine extracts a rib for the purposes of crafting a companion creature. Later, he will probe the minds of the pair and discover desires that he cannot sanction, as though they had new knowledge of themselves. What Analog brings to the table is an appalling realism: the cutting, bleeding, and growing attendant with these procedures are made explicit. So, too, is the humans’ punishment for their sinful thoughts. This is Adam and Eve retold as horror.

Analog is a marvelous example of the remarkable potential of DIY filmmaking. Ebbëto creates a number of immersive settings, including the cramped, industrial spaceship. It’s not always completely realistic – the green-screen technology sometimes gives off that DVD-ROM cut-scene vibe – but it’s thoroughly otherworldly and cleverly overcomes its limitations. There’s a lot of mileage to be gotten out of smart cables, rotating tubes, and robot repair.

But what little story there is amounts to a kind of grotesque punchline. The biblical beats hint at critique or satire but are really just the excuse for an outline, and once you’ve admired the bang-for-your-buck ethos, there’s not much more to it. Analog works best as a proof-of-concept for Ebbeto’s filmmaking skills; that’s the more interesting genesis story going on here.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

Analog definitely isn’t going to be for everyone. It is slow and obtuse, and while I tend to dig that kind of deliberate, cautious tempo, I’ll admit, the whole thing does feel too long… Analog is still an interesting watch. There is a creepy ambience, and while that blanched out visual style can overwhelm your eyes from time to time, the look is consistent and unique.” – Brent McKnight, Giant Freakin Robot 

(This movie was nominated for review by Lesharky. Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

CAPSULE: MEDUSA (2021)

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Medusa is currently available for VOD rental or purchase.

DIRECTED BY: Anita Rocha da Silveira

FEATURING: Mariana Oliveira, Lara Tremouroux

PLOT: A group of Brazilian girls involved in a fundamentalist Christian sect spend their nights as vigilantes attacking women they deem insufficiently modest; one becomes beset by doubts.

Still from Medusa (2021)

COMMENTS: Medusa begins with a closeup of an eyeball, with a spot of bright red light and a spot of bright green light clearly reflected to the right and left of the pupil. As Goblin-esque techno music swells, the camera pulls back and rotates to show its subject performing an abstract but provocative interpretive dance, bathed in competing green and red washes. It’s appropriate that the film begins with a moody dance scene, because Medusa is full of elaborately choreographed atmospheres, from the bubblegum pink neon pop performances of “Michele and the Treasures of the Lord” to synchronized fascist yoga to a masked rave in the woods. The audiovisual aspects are superb: doom-laden dollies establish an effective mode. The director cites Suspiria as a major influence (seen mainly in the bold lighting choices.)

But while the style is enthralling, Medusa‘s script struggles to keep up. Granted, a lot of thought goes into the film’s themes. The running monster motif is handled well. The film critiques the cult-like dynamics of the nameless evangelical Christian sect portrayed here by focusing on its overwhelming concern with policing surface appearances rather than fostering virtue. This leads to the occasional satirical hit: an influencer explains how to properly take a “Christian selfie.” It also allows for moments of pathos, as when the same YouTuber removes her makeup after abandoning a video tutorial to reveal an unglamorous underlying reality. The fact that the protagonist only begins to question the group’s ideology of superficiality when her physical perfection is temporarily compromised is meaningful. But these insights exist alongside more obvious anti-religion jabs that verge on the stereotypical, e.g. a pastor stops a spiritual counseling session in the middle to take a call from a wealthy donor.

That unevenness could be forgiven, but at the same time, the story is losing focus as it progresses. The film’s increasing disorientation tracks with Mariana’s growing disillusionment and the disintegration of her worldview; but the story also seems like it’s unsure how to conclude. Shaving twenty minutes or so off the running time would have helped. Medusa lingers a too long on dreamlike sequences that add little. And Mariana’s arc goes a bit flat in the third act: she drags her bestie into dipping their toes into hedonistic excess with no believable coaxing—just a touch of magical realism that doesn’t feel all that realistic. And, though cracks show, Mariana doesn’t firmly break from her religious fervor even at the end, when the girls all spontaneously erupt into what is meant to be an expression of raw, resentful female fury, but might be unfairly dismissed as a mass hysterical episode. The women express righteous catharsis, but it seems tacked-on rather than flowing from the plot (especially since it encompasses characters who’ve experienced none of Mariana’s character growth). Medusa has a great look and sound, a few memorable scenes, and a fine central performance by Mariana Oliveira to ground the chaos, but the whole feels less than the parts.

Director Anita Rocha da Silveira was inspired by the rise of evangelical Christian groups in Brazil, and by reports of teenage girls physically assaulted by their peers for appearing too slutty on social media. On these inspirations she overlaid Ovid’s version of the myth of Medusa, where the gorgon is transformed into a monster by Athena as punishment for alleged promiscuity. De Silveira’s film played at Cannes and was picked up for U.S. distribution by Music Box Films (who are becoming a major player in distributing some of the weirder low-to-mid budget movies out there, having also released Strawberry Mansion and Please Baby Please in 2022).

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Da Silveira has alluded to the disturbing social trends in her native Brazil that have informed her themes. Here she challenges them in a way that is satirical, amusing, stylish and strange; perhaps even controversial for her native audience.”–Demetreos Matheou, Screen Daily (festival review)

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

CAPSULE: BACURAU (2019)

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Recommended

DIRECTED BY:  Juliano Dornelles, Kleber Mendonça Filho

FEATURING: Bárbara Colen, , Sonia Braga, Thomas Aquino

PLOT: A group of killers isolate a small Brazilian village intending to massacre the residents for recreation, but find the peasants are more resourceful than they anticipated.

Still from Bacurau (2019)

COMMENTS: Seeing the word “weird” used to describe a movie like Bacurau reminds us just how jaded we here at 366 Weird Movies are. The only unusual features of this Brazilian export are its slightly unconventional blend of art-house drama with ballsy genre filmmaking, along with some mild psychotropic visions and one quirky flying-saucer shaped drone. It may be a weird brew for general American audiences—the ones who would never go see a foreign or independent film anyway—or to professional critics who prefer to stick to the realist side of the art-house scene… but this sociological-study-cum-shoot-em-up isn’t exactly Let the Corpses Tan.

With it’s magnificent landscapes, including some local cacti that could pass for Saguaro, Bacurau evokes the mythic West of Sergio Leone: it could be Once Upon a Time in Brazil. The opening scene includes a litter of coffins spilled onto the road leading into town, which reinforces that connection. By the end, when the resourceful tribe defends their eerily deserted town from the better-equipped invaders, Bacurau takes on the shape of The Seven Samurai.

The first forty-five minutes paint a portrait of the hamlet of perhaps one hundred souls, planted in the middle of nowhere. A matriarch, the ancestor of a large percentage of the population, has just died, and nursing student Teresa returns, bearing a suitcase of vaccines, to attend her grandmother’s funeral. The town has a teacher, a doctor, a whore, a DJ who serves as the town crier and local news anchor when not pumping out the jams, and so forth; it also has a rather large library and a museum devoted to the town’s history. Things get strange when Bacurau suddenly disappears from Google Maps, a UFO is spotted, and bullet holes are found in the tanker truck that supplies them with fresh water. The nature of the trouble soon becomes apparent; a tour group of American thrill-killers have paid a small fortune to hunt these forgotten people for sport. The killing starts in the final act, but although squibs are not spared and plenty of red stuff splashes around, it’s not the action-packed bloodbath you might expect. Steering away from exploitative spectacle as much as possible (given the scenario), the killings are spread out, as the invaders are picked off one by one. You might guess that Udo Kier, the oldest, evilest, and most famous of the bad guys is the last one to go. I’ll never tell.

Many note that with the sympathetic portrayal of the villagers’ “degeneracy” (casual nudity and free love, acceptance of homosexuality, and liberal use of ethnobotonicals)—and the presence of crooked con-man mayor Tony Jr., representing provincial corruption—the film takes its shots at homophobic, right-wing Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro. Capitalism itself also comes in for quite a thrashing. On the other hand, Bolsonaro might be pleased with the film’s xenophobia aimed at the stereotyped Western interlopers (Kier is not a Nazi, he insists, shooting a companion to prove his point). He might also approve of the derision heaped on the invaders’ big city Brazilian allies, traitorous globalist collaborators shamelessly manipulated by shadowy outsiders. The line between anti-colonialism and populist nationalism is thin indeed.

Pulled from American theaters early due to the Covid-19 crisis, Bacurau is currently streaming via Kino Now. They have thoughtfully set up a system whereby the independent theaters that were supposed to screen the film can share the streaming revenue (check here for the list of participating venues). Kino probably could have kept all the revenue to themselves, as Disney did with the digital release of Onward, so they deserve massive respect for this move. Bacurau is not only a quality film, it’s a good way to support small (and big) businesses in a dry season.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“’Bacurau’ is definitely weird, a quasi-Western mashed up with psychedelic sci-fi and political satire.”–Jeffrey Anderson, San Francisco Examiner (contemporaneous)

CAPSULE: THIS NIGHT I’LL POSSESS YOUR CORPSE (1967)

Esta Noite Encarnarei no Teu Cadáver

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DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: José Mojica Marins, Nadia Freitas, Tina Wohlers, Antonio Fracari, José Lobo

PLOT: “Coffin Joe” returns to town in the hopes of nabbing himself a perfect bride to match his perfect self so that they might together create a perfect son; trouble ensues when he kidnaps six townswomen and then later seduces the daughter of a local bigwig.

Still from This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse (1967)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Marins has cleaned up his technique since At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (1964), the first movie in the Coffin Joe series, but trace amateurism still does This Night no favors. Admittedly it’s a close-run thing: the bridal spider-test, Nietzchian diatribes, and a colorful visit to Hell are among a number of memorable bits of weirdness. But this is avowedly a straight “horror” movie—that’s no bad thing, it just makes it, in this case, no weird thing.

COMMENTS: Coffin Joe is at it again. His eyesight restored after a bout in the hospital and his freedom granted after a hearing at the local courthouse, he returns to his home village to terrorize the dismayed locals as he continues his quest to father a son. José Marins neatly resurrects his signature character in This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse for another round of ominous behavior and philosophical ranting at no one in particular. Armed with the experience gained from making his first horror movie (At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul), Marins now offers his audience more of the same, with a finer polish. Not being saddled by any other precedents (he was the only Brazilian horror filmmaker in the market), the director continues fashioning the yardstick by which Brazilian horrors would be measured.

Coffin Joe starts his machinations immediately, without any fear of the law or God. With his signature chapeau, charismatic beard, grotesquely long fingernails, and his hunchback henchman, Bruno (José Lobo), Joe captures six women and holds them in his funeral parlor, testing their mettle by releasing a swarm of fuzzy tarantulas on them as they sleep. One woman, Marcia (Nadia Freitas) passes this test, but alas for the would-be lucky lady, she ultimately doesn’t cut the mustard. A second (pregnant) kidnappee curses Joe before her snake-y demise. Undaunted, he lays eyes on the daughter of a local grandee. She is immediately smitten by the long-clawed mortician. Once again, Joe goes too far, and the peasants get a hankering for a lynching.

This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse is a technically superior outing to the comparably long-titled At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul. Smoother editing, marginally superior acting, and more memorable sets (whipped up in an abandoned synagogue); all come together for a more professional feel than that which plagued (blessed?) Marins’ first outing. However, this works against This Night‘s weird qualifications, as far as we’re concerned. The film has a number of things going for it, but now that the director has started walking the fine line between amateur and professional, he abandons his beginner’s luck. In short, This Night is just a smidge too well made to have the flash of weirdness that a novice’s efforts might have provided. Still, a popcorn-snow Hell, spider-eroticism, and Joe’s Übermensch stance all make it a close call.

Marins reinvented horror for his homeland of Brazil, and makes a decent start. As remarked in the At Midnight review, he’s got the best character in town, and one who can hold his own among the other greats of horror film history. There is an undeniable charm (of sorts) to a diminutive undertaker who obviously relished the Cliff Notes of “Beyond Good and Evil” in school. Marins doesn’t go full tilt enough, however, to make This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse so mind-blowing or unsettling to bring it into the weird canon. Further investigation of this anti-hero may come, though, so there’s a chance José Marins’ brain-child may at least achieve the immortality that 366 Weird Movies can furnish.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“The movie itself has a real sense of surreal and jarring horror, but its main problem may be its lack of subtlety; the themes come across as blatantly obvious and a little too self-consciously articulated.”–Dave Sindelar, Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings (DVD)

This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse
  • 35mm negative scan supervised by director José Mojica Marins
  • The Making of THIS NIGHT I’LL POSSESS YOUR CORPSE (8 mins.)
  • A visit to the Coffin Joe Museum (5 mins.)
  • The Universe of Mojica Marins – Vintage Featurette (25 mins.)
  • Interview with José Mojica Marins (8 mins.)
  • Introduction to the film by Coffin Joe
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Photo gallery
  • Optional English subtitles and chapter selections
  • Cover artwork by Gary Pullin