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Stephanie Ogrodnik [Celluloid 09.05.12] Brazil drama

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"I guess all things come to an end. And in their place there's this morbid melancholia of something you're not even sure you really lived," says our protagonist, Dirceu, to his new and greatest love, Maria. In high black and white, Brazilian director Daniel Aragao paints a grim and visually breathtaking portrait of a doomed relationship between two lovers, reconciling with their past. Though Boa Sorte Meu Amor certainly teeters over the edge of pretension, it does not detract from the style of this talented filmmaker from Brazil.

Dirceu, a man forced to abandon his past, now works in demolition, leveling buildings of the city, making room for the new. He quickly falls helplessly in love with Maria, who also hails from rural Água Branca, where he grew up. Together, they share their dreams of the future and the troubles of their past. While Dirceu's love flourishes, Maria begins to appear more and more trapped.

The film is broken up into chapters, which introduce the different chapters of these characters lives and the development of a turbulent relationship. The film opens with quick shots of the modest, sleepy land once owned by Dirceu's family, along with the remnants of a hidden body. The first chapter is titled "You Are What You Lose." In this chapter, in which Dirceu and Maria meet, it becomes clear that while they both claim to have let go of their quiet manor by the river or their dreams of becoming a pianist, they are equally compensating for a missing piece of their selves.

There's a constant theme of a battle between the past and the future. Even in Dirceu and Maria's relationship, we have a man struggling to forget his childhood home and a woman who dreams of something better but is terrified of responsibility. This theme also blends with the film's imagery. Shots of the thriving Brazilian city filled with its modern skyscrapers, is accompanied by unsettling background sounds of odd, robot-like beeps and whines. It's the type of background music one might expect in an episode of "Twilight Zone." The city itself has an impressive skyline but low contrast black and white landscape shots help to make the sky, the skyscrapers and the apartment buildings meld into one another. Though the wealth of the city suggests one full of life, separating us from the movement and giving us eerie futuristic music makes it appear empty and alien. We follow this into a scene of Dirceu at a demolition site listening to his boss argue that the building they are now bringing down is not a "heritage site."

This in an incredibly well shot film. Even at times when the narrative begins to drag and we feel we can't bear to watch a film that meditates on one man's building misery, we can still be impressed by the director's craft. Every scene is meticulously chosen and well framed. The first time we see Maria is in a high contrast close up and all we hear is a jazz song that's repeated several times throughout the film, it's lyrics repeating, "I don't need you no more...I've found somebody new." As she greets incoming patrons in heavy make up, dark lips and what appears to be a small usher's hat, she looks like almost like a perfect, picturesque 1920's image. When Dirceu returns to his hometown, we also get a contrast between an unwelcoming, emotionally strained population along a remarkably beautiful landscape.

Don't be afraid of missing any of these moments. It's impossible to do so. As Aragao is seemingly aware of his own talents, lost in the aesthetic rapture of the images on camera, many and most of these shots are either provided with several clips of the same location or at least three to five extra seconds for meditation. Likewise, each character is provided their own monologue, detailing their hopes, sorrows, fears, etc., though much to the film's credit, the conversations and dialogue are often capable of holding attention.

Despite the misfortunes of our protagonist, this film is not necessarily a tragedy. It is more of a characters inevitable downfall, searching for his lost lover, while equally lost in an abandoned childhood past that has long since abandoned him. There is a distinct type of fear expressed within the narrative. It is the fear of loss, not for a loved one, but for the self and for lost memories. We are faced with two characters, forced unwillingly out of the past and into adulthood both with crushing consequences. It's the fear we get in visiting a childhood home only to find out that the new tenants painted over your height chart, or learning that the playground you grew up next to has been torn down to make room for another 7-11. Though we know that it's not going to change your life experiences or the fact that it's still the place where you had your first kiss with Jane Doe, there's the sinking feeling that some part of you has been erased. Unfortunately for Dirceu, he's faced with the painful realization that in returning to his hometown, which his bitter father drove him to forget, he may never have a chance to reclaim his memories.

This is a terribly anti-uplifting film. This is not to its credit or to its ruin but it is a film that will require much patience, made for only the most determined, inspired and yes, maybe a bit pretentious, film buffs. Regardless of anything, this sad portrait of Brazil introduces the talents of Daniel Aragao, an extremely gifted filmmaker with a vision worth sharing. While this film appears set for a quiet release, it's one that dedicated film lovers with a affinity toward slow burn, character driven dramas, about the downfalls and misfortunes life, love, etc., may fall for and recommend. I'm unsure of what his next projects are set to be or when we can expect another film, but it would be a great pleasure to see what else this filmmaker may be capable of.

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