Mauricio Andrade Ramos

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Lower City Review


Weak
Two guys on the ragged edge of poverty, a gorgeous young hooker who's sleeping with them both, what could go wrong? If this were all that the emotional, sweat-suffused Brazilian film Lower City was about, it would be the worst kind of tedium. But while first-time director Sérgio Machado brings more to the table than his skimpy script would warrant at first glance, what he adds is not quite enough to make this the explosive debut he no doubt was wishing for.

Machado was at least smart enough to make the object of his male stars' (and the camera's) attention fully able to deserve it, and then some. As 20-year-old Karinna, the ridiculously gorgeous Alice Braga shares her aunt Sonia's strong, sensual features and iconic aloofness; she's the center of attention in every scene whether she likes it or not, effortlessly drawing in everyone around her. Pity, of course, that the film had to take such an arresting actress and make her a whore. But that's just what Lower City is about: a young whore from a small Brazilian town who gets a cut rate on a ride on a boat to the big city of Salvador by agreeing to sleep with the two men piloting it.

Continue reading: Lower City Review

City Of God Review


Good
I wouldn't know to complain if you told me we were having coffee in a part of town called "City of God," what with its vague St. Augustine allusions and all. But after watching the Brazilian film of the same name, I think I'm supposed to add it to the list of neighborhoods that represent the combined failures of local government, law & order, and perhaps the human race: South Boston, Trenchtown in the Jamaican capitol of Kingston, East St. Louis, and South Central Los Angeles. We group them on an imagined Most Wanted list of places we'd never go, streets and sidewalks where we think getting killed might be as likely as tripping over the curb.

Rocket, City of God's young protagonist agrees, even though he grew up there. His story spans two decades (as far as I can tell, from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s) in this arid housing project 15 miles outside of Rio De Janeiro, beginning with him as a child looking up to the local hoods as they rob delivery trucks, and ending with him photographing them for the local newspaper as they kill each other. And while there were good times, Rocket's narration indicates that he doesn't miss them much. "This is where the politicians dump their garbage", he says. "Criminals? Homeless families? Pack 'em up and send them to City of God!"

Continue reading: City Of God Review

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