By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
This movie is a slightly surreal comedy-drama detailing a caravan of five entertainers who travel the Brazilian countryside putting on vaudeville like shows underneath a makeshift tent. The film works in a vignette style as it analyzes the many scenarios and difficulties that the group encounters as well as making a very strong statement to the poverty and hardships befallen on the townspeople that they meet. In fact if there is one lasting image that the film gives it is that one.
The story is pretty much character driven and the characters are all by and large highly amoral. They reflect the desperation of their audiences, which they quietly hope someday to rise above, but never do. There are a few fleeting moments where they amazingly and surprisingly decide ‘to do the right thing’, which ends up being the film’s most memorable scenes, but most of the time they are ‘rough around the edges’ and the viewer is forced to appreciate them with all their frailties brightly exposed.
Jose Wilker plays Lorde Cigano who is the leader of the group and a lifelong con-man. He closely resembles character actor Stuart Margolin, who was famous for playing the character of Angel on the classic 70’s series The Rockford Files where he was always trying one amusing scheme after another and the character here works in much the same way. He has a few good lines as well as a funny running gag where he displays obscene toys to attractive woman he meets in order to ‘turn them on’.
Betty Faria plays Salome who does erotic dances during their performances. She lies and cheats as much as Lorde and is more than willing to fall back to being a prostitute whenever the group is in need of money. Although she does have a few nude scenes she is really not all that attractive, or young, as she was already hitting 40 at the time that the film was made. However, her worn looking face does help accentuate the hardened lifestyle of the character. Her best scene is when she is ‘servicing’ one of her clients who is a fat, balding middle-aged man who expounds the entire time they are having sex about the many virtues of his wife.
Fabio Junior plays Cico the young man who joins the group because he feels it is a chance to escape the sad existence of a peasant farmer only to find that life on the road can be in many ways just as grueling and thankless. Junior is a famous singer in Brazil and his chiseled, boyish good looks didn’t seem to be a realistic fit for the impoverished farm family that his character came from in the movie. He shows no concern for his pregnant wife and spends the entire time trying to seduce Salome, which makes him irritating and unlikable. I did though like the fact that he was the one character who evolved and became introspective at the end.
The character of Daso, which is played by actress Zaira Zambelli and is Fabio’s wife, was a bit frustrating. The film makes it clear that she is aware that Fabio is fooling around with Salome and she doesn’t seem to care. She also excitedly jumps into becoming a prostitute at her husband’s insisting when the group falls on hard times. However, I wanted more explanation, or history given to the character to help understand this, but the story does not supply any.
I was also disappointed with the handling of the Swallow character who performs feats of strength during their productions as well as acting as the group’s driver. Swallow is mute, but easily is the most likable and durable, but he runs away half-way through the picture and never returns. I would have liked the character to have stayed during the entire duration as he helped give balance to the others, or at the very least some detail to his eventual fate.
The film becomes almost a like a Brazilian travelogue as the viewer encounters everything from the small dessert towns, to the exotic rain forests. However, the budget was clearly low and I didn’t feel the cinematography captured the majestic essence of the landscape as much as it could’ve, or as I had expected. The story and situations are not all that unique, or creative, but it stays nicely amiable throughout. The funniest part of the whole film may actually be the lyrics of the song that is sung at the very end during the closing credits. This is not a great movie, but not a bad one either.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: February 9, 1980
Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes
Director: Carlos Diegues
Studio: Carnaval Unifilm
Available: VHS, DVD