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Laramie Movie Scope:
Neighbouring Sounds (O som ao redor)

Short Cuts, Brazilian style

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 19, 2012 -- This film reminds me a little bit of the Robert Altman film “Short Cuts” because it is a series of related stories with a dark undercurrent, only this is a foreign language film (Portugese) set in a city neighborhood in Brazil. All the people live or work on the same street in the same upscale block of the coastal town of Racife.

The people in this story are mostly well off. They don't live in a slum (favela). They have nice houses with big screen TVs and they can afford tutors for their kids. They are not unlike upper middle class American families. One family appears to be in the top one percent of the income scale, led by the family patriarch, Francisco (played by W.J. Solha). This is a family with old money, plantation money.

The family has also branched out into real estate and it owns a lot of property in Racife. Francisco's grandson, João (Gustavo Jahn) sells real estate for the family, but hates his job. João's cousin, Dinho (Yuri Holanda) causes trouble by breaking into cars and stealing things. A frustrated housewife in the neighborhood, Beatriz “Bia” (Maeve Jinkings) spends a lot of time smoking pot and trying to get the neighbor's dog to stop barking. Her kids are bing tutored in Chinese.

This is not a comfortable neighborhood, however, there is fear lurking behind the barred doors and security cameras. The residents decide to hire a private security firm to patrol the street, headed by the ambitious young Clodoaldo (Irandhir Santos). He is smart and easygoing, but there is a hint of danger about this tall man. When his brother, Claudio (Sebastião Formiga) shows up near the end of the film, the danger vibe goes way up. Clodoaldo and his fellow guards set up canopy on the end of the block and keep watch at night. Clodoaldo tells his employees to be on the lookout for danger. He shows them a video of a guard being murdered not far away in the same city.

João hooks up with a new girlfriend, Sofia (Irma Brown) and they start spending a lot of time together. As soon as Sofia finds out her new boyfriend is rich, she jokingly asks him to marry her. They spend time in the company of Francisco, who also urges them to get married. They also tour various properties, including the house where Sofia used to live. It is soon to be torn down to make way for more high rise apartments.

In addition to the residents of the street, there are also servants and others, like the security guards, who make their living doing things for the wealthy residents of the street. There is a fairly sharp dividing line between the servants and the residents, and some resentment because of that. One of these servants, rebuffed by a resident, keys her car in revenge. Director Kleber Mendonça Filho does a nice job of using these little slices of life to give us a good idea about a certain level of Brazilian society. He also manages in invoke an uneasy sense of thinly veiled threat, particularly when Francisco swims alone at night in shark-infested waters.

This is a very sophisticated and demanding film. It is constructed very carefully and intricately. It is not a straightforward story at all. The story is attacked on multiple fronts and many different angles. The story sneaks up on you, like a thief in the night, like the one streaking through the hallway of an expensive house while two neighborhood employees have sex on the bed in the master bedroom while the owners are away. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2012 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)