Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2018 3:48 pm 
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A drama of popular clashes between Christian and more primitive satanic rituals in Brazil is colorful but a bit rough

Reviewed at Rotterdam in Hollywood Reporter by Neil Young, who explains the basics - how Azougue Nazare shows cultures clashing "with a reverberant clang" in this "promisingy energetic" - emphasis on "promisingly" - first feature. Specifically the conflict is between annual spectacles of a primitive tribal nature and the local Pernambuco (in NW Brazil) strain of evangelical Christianity.

The special element is Maracatu, a local tradition of an elaborately costumed celebration like Mardi GraS Carnival, and based on roots in Brazil's time of slavery. The trouble is Tiago Melo wrangles his authentic local performers and musicians with unequal skill, and fails to develop the Christian evangelical side as clearly, or integrate his various subplots, which include a pretty young woman who wants to leave her locksmith husband, and a major performer in Maracatu, a big fat black man (Valmir do Coco), whose wife wants to have a baby by her elderly evangelical minister because a dream has told her so.

It's nice ironic twist, if filmmaker TIago Melo were as good as telling a story as Marcel Camus of the classic 1959 film Black Orpheus. But then, Camus had beautiful local stars (the Orpheus was a champion footballer) and a Greek myth. Even Carlos Diegues' updated 1999 local version of Camus's film, Orpheu, though beautiful, could not quite capture the earlier film's magic. Nothing in Azougue Nazare develops that kind of emotional power; only two peripheral actors are attractive, and there is no clear and unified central story. Neil Young acknowledges some of the cast of Melo's movie "are not the most gifted of thespians," but neither is Melo the most gifted of writer-editors. This is colorful indeed, but all pretty rough.

Azougue Nazarre, 80 mins., debuted at Rotterdam, where it won the Bright Future prize. It was screened for this review as part of the Mar. 28-Apr. 8, 2018 Museum of Modern Art-Film Society of Lincoln Center joint series, New Directors/New Films.

ND/NF showtimes:
Friday, March 30, 6:30pm [FSLC]
Saturday, March 31, 7:30pm [MoMA]

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