sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

April 24, 2005

brazilian movie
posted by soe 1:02 am

I finally had a free night tonight, so I chose to spend it at the movies, watching my complimentary show from DC Film Fest. There were four movies I was thinking about — two in particular. One, The Boys and Girl from County Clare, was described as a perfect date movie, so I decided to hold off on that until the Random Duck and I could see it together. So instead I opted for a tongue in cheek Brazilian romantic comedy, Manual for Love Stories (Como Fazar um Filme de Amor), directed and co-written by José Roberto Torero.

The movie was showing at the Avalon, a old-fashioned two-screen theater, located in Chevy Chase on the border of Maryland. The Avalon only reopened a year ago after having been revived by the local community up there, and this was the first chance I had to visit. The theater is nice; they did a nice job refurbishing it — particularly when you hear that Loews had ordered the inside demolished before they deserted it (presumably to discourage someone else from opening it up again in the near future).

I assume before I arrived they had the doors closed and found it was a little stuffy on a damp night because they kept the doors open for much of the film. Brrr!!! And the popcorn was cold. But those were two minor complaints and not much to discourage me from having a good time.

Manual is a witty satire, poking fun at the cinematic conventions surrounding romantic comedies — á la Down with Love here in the U.S. An omnipresent narrator controls the narrative, picking out the heroine, her name and her occupation, as well as periodically stopping scenes to rework them to suit his fancies better. The hero of the story even argues with the narrator on several occasions, only to learn that’s not a smart idea.

The story is your typical “boy meets girl, boy loses girl through misunderstanding, boy clears up misunderstanding only to have girl’s life threatened by evil vixen before girl’s mother saves the day” movie.

It was cute, but nothing earth-shattering. I gave it three out of five stars on my “viewer’s choice” ballot. Definitely worth seeing if you have the chance, particularly because there is no American DVD plan in the works.

Torero was in the audience and took questions after the show finished. The movie definitely shared his sense of humor and his delivery style. My favorite points during the Q&A were when, after he was complimented on his humor, he shared that his next movie is a documentary about death, and when he said that the movie did better in film festivals than it did in general release in Brazil because the audience at film festivals tend to be smarter. I’m not sure if that’s true, but they’re definitely more high-brow. After he finished talking, I contemplated asking for a new ballot so I could raise my rating to four stars, but then decided the rating would more be based on him than on his film and that that would be unfair.

Torero has written a number of other movies, but IMDB seems to indicate none of them are available here in the U.S. How disappointing. If anyone runs a festival of his work, I hope it comes to a local theater, since they sound like a lot of fun.

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