To love cinema is to be a padawan in the art of gold mining
for obscure films around the world, learning about different cultures through
their rich artistic expressions.
There’s a bit of Indiana Jones in every movie buff, or there
should be, since intellectual laziness never does well. So to help with this
goal, I have selected titles from various parts of the globe that deserve
greater recognition. Don’t waste time, start today!
Seven Beauties (1975)
Italian director Lina Wertmüller (who started as assistant
director to Fellini) caught the attention of the world with this film, even
breaking the sexist chain of Hollywood and being the first woman to compete for
an Oscar for Best Director. The greatest merit of production is not in this
fleeting award event of American self-celebration, so immersed in politics, but
in the strength of its script and the incredible courage it shows in each
The greatest challenge was to use comedy as a tool to tell
the story of Pasqualino Frafuso (Giancarlo Giannini in an impeccable
performance), a man who lives in appearance, false morals and cowardice. He
disrespects any sense of ethics, but reacts violently (and clumsily) whenever
his seven sisters are exposed to some humiliating situation.
The humor is born when we realize that the “Seven Beauties”
are incredibly devoid of any charm or grace, accentuating the feeling that we
are facing an allegorical work. Our clumsy hero ends up getting involved in a
crime while trying to maintain the honor of his family, which ends up leading
him to a court and a downward spiral of events, where he will be stripped of
all ego and self-love, against background the Nazi rise in World War II.
Giannini works his characterization with subtle references
to Chaplin, evidenced by his looks and his walk. The classic vagabond, even
surviving a precarious existence, maintained his refined “pose,” as did
Giannini’s Pasqualino, who conceals a corruptible and fearful heart wrapped in
a secure, bon vivant and authoritative pose. This position is already clear in
the early stages of the work, when he witnesses the murder of Jews by the Nazis
and does not seem to feel remorse for not trying to avoid that slaughter.
The critique of conformism (already included in an efficient
way in the music that starts the film) becomes more and more direct, while the
protagonist finds himself having to make increasingly degrading decisions, such
as flirting with a rather attractive German at a concentration camp, in an
attempt to escape the hell of war. As one of the characters states in the film,
when order is driven by chaos, only a disorderly man can be saved.
The greatest triumph of the movie is to make us cheer for a
non-heroic protagonist. A man who survives from his cowardice. Someone who
shapes his character through the obstacles that confront him. The wonderful
final scene accurately expresses the traumatic consequences of this lifestyle.
Ballad of a Soldier (1959)
One of the arguments I listen to most from moviegoers when I
suggest movies that are not part of the Hollywood circuit is, “There you come
with those Ukrainian art movies.” As I firmly believe that the initial step for
anyone interested in breaking the seventh art is to risk looking for diamonds
encrusted in the deepest rock formations, I usually point out “Ballad of a
Seen today, it presents an agile and fully efficient
narrative structure, thrillingly telling the odyssey of a 19-year-old soldier,
an immature boy thrown in the midst of the cruelty of war. After clumsily
performing a heroic feat in battle, he receives an honorable notification from
his superior. Distraught from not having been able to say goodbye to his mother
in his humble village, having followed his road leaving behind an unfinished
repair on the roof of his house, the young man asks his superior that in the
place of the notification, he can have at least one day next to his mother,
promising to return next.
The goodness of the young Alyosha (Vladimir Ivashov), who
ends up various times risking to deviate from his desired goal, seeking to be
useful to compatriot strangers (like the soldier who lost a leg and intends to
let his wife believe that he died).
A quick and beautiful scene occurs soon after the young man
knows the reality of those who await the return of the soldiers, indulging in
frivolous passions as a way of escape. He meets the weakened soldier’s father,
choosing to lie to reassure him about the high status of his son, while the
father chooses to lie to the young man about his son’s wife, asking him to
return and tell him how much she loves him and awaits her return. Both know
that they are deceiving themselves, but respect prevents them from showing it.
Dramatic moments like this keep its vigor, as well as the
efficiency of the comic relief, represented by the figure of the young and
bountiful officer on the train, who clandestinely accommodates the young
soldier and a beautiful girl (Zhanna Prokhorenko), his first love.
Not One Less (1999)
The saga of a stubborn teacher and a child who would not be
a statistic. An impressive effort by sensitive director Zhang Yimou to portray
the most beautiful side of human nature.
With a cast of amateurs who use their own names (and occupy
functions similar to their characters), “Not One Less” tells of a 13-year-old
girl (Wei Minzhi) who lives in a poor Chinese village, far from civilization.
When the teacher of the humble local primary school needs to be absent for a
month, the mayor summons the girl to be the substitute teacher. The modest
payment will be given if she is able to avoid giving up the children. Families
are poor and there is no hope in the eyes of students who express their anguish
by acts of rebellion.
Zhang begins the work making us believe that the obstinacy
of the girl is guided only by the payment, but throughout the plot he moves us
to show the devotion of the old teacher, who, with a limited amount of chalk
and no money to replace it, even uses the powder left on his fingers to
complete his teachings on the blackboard. This love, which is only explained by
the genuine vocation, ends up contaminating the young woman, who embarks on an
arduous journey (external and internal, of maturity) to rescue the most
strenuous student of the class who had fled to the big city to find work.
The discussion that the work fosters, between the lack of
demotivating perspective and the progressive stimulation of the girl in
fighting for that single student, establishes an inspiring and realistic
parable. In the course of her journey (which begins at school, when she and the
children carry bricks, intending to pay for the bus trip), she ends up spending
a lot more money than she would receive at the end of her mission.
On the other hand, we are presented the figure of a
secretary of the city, who is unable to show compassion when denying help to
the girl. Zhang introduces us to an adult woman who denies a simple gesture
(which would take her only a few minutes), while the young woman exudes
maturity by keeping her aim to the point, sleeping in the street. The
documentary naturalism of filming adds value to it, causing us to identify with
the situations and hope that the protagonist can find the boy and take him back
Like any 13-year-old child (not so different from the ones
she must teach) in the same situation, she starts focusing only on not letting
any of them escape. Before she even boldly ventured into town, her actions
already demonstrate that something has changed in her (matured) and, more
importantly, in the students. Her stubborn devotion proved to the needy
children that they are not statistics. The exciting finale makes it clear that
where formerly dominated hopelessness and chaos existed, the light of self-esteem
is now shining. The internal change was much greater than the external one,
coming from the young woman’s journey.
Aniki Bóbó (1942)
Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira has already received
much criticism for his esteem for the long takes, present in almost all of his
works. His detractors argue that cinema is the art of movement, not a collage
of still photos. With good humor, the filmmaker says that his long takes are
not photos, in these fixed planes there can be a lot of movement. His keen cinematographic
gaze assured him the position of a symbol of the Portuguese cinema. Among all
the films of his career, my favorite is “Aniki Bóbó,” his first feature-length
fiction and one that’s unfairly very little known (even in his country).
Another brilliant Portuguese writer named Fernando Pessoa
once said, “no children’s book should be written for children”. The same can be
said about cinema. Rarely do studios make films aimed at the children’s
audience with intelligence and refinement, believing that just putting an
incompetent director on the front line with a lot of color and a minimum of
creative ideas will win the attention of children and the money of adults. It
is not always that beautiful works such as “The Boys of Paul Street” and “Stand
by Me” appears in cinemas.
With “Aniki Bóbó,” de Oliveira created a poetic tale that
can be seen as a cinematographic equivalent of the literary work “The Little
Prince” from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, aside from being great as an instrument
for a first appreciation of his work, for being simple and very objective. My
advice to those who like this: do not forget to watch also “The Divine Comedy”
(1991) and the interesting “A Caixa” (1994), to fall in love with the
The story of the film is based on the short story “The
Millionaire Boys” by João Rodrigues de Freitas, and tells the adventures of a
group of Portuguese children, and their first loves and frustrations. It is
interesting to note a certain similarity between the lyrical gaze on de Oliveira’s
childhood and François Truffaut in his majestic “The 400 Blows,” released 17
years later. I sincerely believe that de Oliveira’s work influenced that of
Truffaut, being a forerunner even of the neorealist movement.
Among my many favorite scenes is one in the beginning, when
the grumpy schoolteacher does not notice that a cat is walking through the
window, causing the whole crowd to shake. Trying to put order in the room, he
screams without success, but when he bangs his table for silence, the cat is scared
and runs away, causing the children to express sadness with a sigh.
Another comical scene that still provokes laughter is the
one in which the owner of a store (lived by the fantastic Nascimento Fernandes,
who began his career acting in Brazil), after being irritated with a child who
had called him a giraffe, slaps his assistant. Frightened, the young man
questions the reason, in which the man replies, “I can not beat the customers!”
A simple scene, but with a perfect rhythm that becomes funnier than on paper.
Another one that does not last more than a few seconds, but
which enchants me, is when the trio of child protagonists are in front of a
shop window of the same store (aptly named like “Shop of the Temptations”) and
admire a doll. There is a poetry in these few seconds.
Bab’Aziz – The Prince That Contemplated His Soul (2005)
This is the best film in the desert trilogy directed by
Nacer Khemir, with scenes that linger in one’s memory for a long time, like the
dance of the young Ishtar and her grandfather in the desert, and the way the
narrative mirrors “1001 Nights” with the grandfather (like Scheherazade)
telling the fantastic story of the prince in parts to entertain the girl, who
is getting more and more fascinated. The script (written by the director in
partnership with Tonino Guerra, who also wrote “Amarcord” and “Blow Up”) is
based on the dignity and devotion of the noble Baba Aziz, who knows that death
lies in wait and tries to teach his knowledge to his spiritual granddaughter,
who accompanies him on the journey.
As in the first movie, we have a character who represents
the contemporary world. A young man in a denim jacket and cap meets Baba Aziz
(Parviz Shahinkhou) and his young granddaughter Ishtar (Maryam Hamid) as they
walk on the desert sands looking for the site of the great gathering of
dervishes (nomadic Muslim monks), which occurs only once every 30 years.
The young man is present initially by the sound of his
singing, which leads us to the first moment of rare beauty in the work. Asking
the elder about which way to go, the sage responds, “You should just walk.”
Worried about getting lost in the undulating vastness, he listens to the girl:
“He who has faith never loses.” Baba then hands over a beautiful symbology:
“Each one uses his most precious gift to find his way, yours is the voice, then
sing my son, that the way will show itself to you.” He continues singing until
he disappears into the horizon.
The essential message that Khemir wants to pass us through
is lyrically represented in the final speech of the dying old man: “If they
told a baby trapped in the darkness of his mother’s womb, there was an
illuminated world out there with high mountain peaks, endless oceans,
undulating plains, beautiful flowering gardens, creeks, a sky composed of a
myriad of stars and a scorching sun, the baby without knowing these wonders,
would not believe such things could exist as we do when we face death. This is
the reason for fear.”
In Khemir’s view, the search for “God” (“the truth to reach
God is in the very interior of man” – Agostinho) is an incessant yearning for
self-knowledge and appreciation of the human being, in search of a crystalline
feeling and a detachment material. The “Desert Trilogy” is rich in symbolism,
beautiful to admire, and with a philosophical richness rarely seen in cinema.
French critic and director Alexandre Astruc believes that
the camera should work in the hands of a director, just like a pen in the hands
of a writer. Director Agnès Varda embraces this belief in her work. In this
film, which I consider the best of her career, she rejects any cohesion or
structure of continuity, approaching social exclusion by the memories of those
who witnessed (in lesser or greater emotional investment) the passage of the young
Mona Bergeron (Sandrine Bonnaire), a fascinating unknown.
Choosing to present the character in the first few minutes,
like a lifeless frozen body in a ditch, the narrator (Varda) asks, “I wonder if
she still lives in the memory of those who knew her as a child. Those she met
recently are reminded of her because she marked them.”
For us, as for the narrator, that young woman was brought by
the waves of the mysterious ocean called: past. Varda chooses then to show her
leaving naked from the sea, like a new Eve in a paradise of uncertainties.
There is no promise of discovery as to the reasons that led her to abandon her
comfort for road adventures, but we were hypnotized by imagining the various
People are attracted to her, not out of sympathy (she
borders on apathy, except for a scene where she seeks to cherish a child), but
by seeing in her spontaneous attitudes a “cure” for her self-imposed
limitations, out of fear or cowardice. A girl claims she wants to be free like
her, while an old lady exudes with her the awareness that her family cheers for
her to die so they can go their own way. The laughter of both, fueled by
alcohol, turns out to be a bunch of cruel truths, thrown into the stomach of a
At one point, one of the young women who crossed the path of
Mona romanticizes her relationship with a boy, as his idealized vision of true
love. Shortly thereafter, Varda contradicts the speech, showing the boy
claiming that his love for the girl was motivated by the amount of marijuana
they both swallowed together. The audience is then presented with two versions,
still distant from that untouchable reality. Mona seems to be a force of
nature, an element that refuses to be subdued by generalized alienation.
Alpine Fire (1985)
Director Fredi M. Murer realized with “Alpine Fire” his
first work of fiction, after being a documentarian. Note the contribution of
this practice in the enviable ability to compose beautiful images, certainly
the high point of the film. It is easy to see that the artisan has little
mastery in the construction of a script that connects a beautiful scene to the
other, as well as the absence of a necessary artistic detachment, causing the
work to drag unnecessarily. Of course, the reward is worth the effort, even
though you may never want to watch a Swiss movie again in your life (which
would be a shame).
The plot is simple and could be told without dialogue
(because the few that exist could not be more irrelevant), though I believe
that would have been a very interesting option. A family lives alone in the
Swiss Alps, facing daily the climatic storms and the maturation of the younger
son (Thomas Nock), who is deaf and very attached to his beautiful older sister,
Belli (Johanna Lier), who acts as a mentor and appeases him in chaotic moments.
When the young man’s hormones begin to get out of control,
his parents decide to keep his mind occupied with work, but in the snowy
solitude of the night, a forbidden feeling begins to unite the brothers. The
great merit of the work is dealing with a very difficult subject with
impressive sensitivity, avoiding the public’s estrangement or repudiation, but
rather causing an incredible sensation that it was the most natural action to
be taken in that situation. Murer retains the elegance from the beginning to
the surrealistic end.
The guilt that the woman feels, the narrow-minded thought
that enslaves her into a routine of constant fear, the source of real stories
that the Egyptian writer/director Mohamed Diab used to build her plot. Three
women from different social classes, very particular views on the repression
they suffer, victims of sexual harassment. Fayza (Bushra) is screwed every day
on her bus trips; her bad financial situation makes her unable to get to work
by taxi, so invariably she is late and is discounted by the boss.
Small children are humiliated in school when she she stops
paying a monthly fee, a terrible situation that is aggravated even more by her
having an insensitive companion, who thinks only of satisfying her desires in
bed, as he sees her as a sexual object. Going through this martyrdom in the
streets, she starts to avoid her husband, which only complicates her routine
Seba (Nelly Karim), after a traumatic experience in a
football stadium, an event that causes her boyfriend to abandon her, dedicates
her life to encouraging female retaliation. Nelly (Nahed El Sebaï) works as a
call center clerk, often reprimanded by her boss, who does not accept that she
hangs up in the face of the daring. She tries to find her place in the sun as
stand-up comedian, but the male audience doesn’t laugh at her jokes. The three
women, forces of nature, end up uniting in an attempt to find a solution to the
The absurdity of justifying the unjustifiable is the fastest
route to a bestialized society; one begins by applauding vandalism in political
demonstrations, rape becomes the fault of the victim’s costume, spitting on
someone’s face becomes a valid argument in a discussion, extremism in all areas
blocks lucid thinking, the good ones are silent and overcome fear. The woman
suffers sexual harassment, but is coerced to not file a police complaint so as
not to have her reputation stained. Rape culture is a cruel reality in that
The genial ending with the comedic acting in a feral way as
an instrument of criticism; the victim on stage, exposing her hurt with a smile
on her face; the existential wounds opening, and the audience gradually
realizing that they’re laughing for no reason.
The truth frees the comedian, while her colleague decides to
cut her hair and hide her body. And the one who was already accustomed to the
cloister removes the veil and explores the aesthetic possibilities of the
lipstick. It is no solution, there is no short-term solution to something so
ingrained in the mindset of the people, but the hardest choice is to take the
first step in the right direction.
The Shooting Party (1978)
Adapted from the novel by Anton Chekhov, published as a
pamphlet in 1884 and 1885 and is considered a precursor of the psychological
police novel, the film penetrates the moral void of the decadent aristocracy
when narrating the drama of the young Olga, the daughter of a servant, coveted
by three men of half-age.
The first element that thrilled in the work is the wonderful
soundtrack composed by Eugen Doga, especially the wedding waltz, which crossed
the cinematographic border and entered popular culture, having been chosen in
2014 by UNESCO as the fourth musical masterpiece of the 20th century.
The sequence that presents it to the public lavishes
refinement, a quality that can be perceived even in the scenes filmed in
claustrophobic environments, with the camera isolating the face of young Olga
(Galina Belyaeva) during the dance, evidencing in her expression the
satisfaction of finally conquering the social status of nobility that he always
desired. She, the tender beast of the original title, in her adolescent
inconsequence, toys with the sentiments of the three adults, who see in her the
lost glory of a ruined aristocracy, the healthy and radiant projection of their
impetus of power.
The pillars may be peeling, the torpor of alcohol can no
longer be controlled, the only pleasure comes from hunting, from the act of
slaughtering beings incapable of defending themselves. That beautiful young
woman, without any effort, makes them priceless prey.
Anatoly Petritsky’s photograph of Bondarchuk’s “War and
Peace” adds a somber dreamy aura, the constant presence of death lurking, an
announced tragedy, reinforced by the weight each cast injects into the text,
which fortunately drives away the tone of melodrama that could have been
adopted by a less competent filmmaker.
Directed by Henning Carlsen and brilliantly adapted from the
work of Knut Hamsun, the Danish film tells of a miserable and hungry writer who
wanders the streets of Kristiania (old Oslo) in 1890, trying to publish an
article (which he considers his masterpiece) in a local newspaper.
Desperate after several unsuccessful attempts to find a job,
he struggles to survive in a battle to maintain his pride and against
humiliation and starvation, which causes him constant delusions and mood
swings. His attempts to show himself worthy are high points, as after pawning
his coat for money, he realizes very well after he forgot his pen in his
pocket, returning in the place and making a point of explaining to a
disinterested owner that that pen was special for him, for it was with her that
he wrote his thesis of philosophy in three volumes.
Per Oscarsson’s award-winning performance in Cannes manages
to turn a character who had everything to be weird into someone we care about.
We can penetrate into his fragile, paranoid world, understand his motives and
cheer for him.
Scenes like the dream, where he fights a bone with a rabid
dog or when, inventing situations, goes door to door asking if they need your
services, are unforgettable in their honesty. After gnawing the remains of a
bone, arguing that he had picked up his dog, he vomits and cries desperately,
saying, “But is there nothing we can keep in ourselves?” A few minutes later,
he says to a policeman on the street, “In five minutes I’ll be a very happy
While many films show men in critical situations caused by alcohol
or drugs, in this little masterpiece, the suffering of the protagonist arises
from his rigid moral code, which prevents him from acting in the most rational
way. Even though he does not have a place to stay, he refuses the invitation of
a friend asking if he would have somewhere to spend the night. Even though he
was obliged to try to sell his glasses, the buttons of his blouse and his only
coat to try to keep himself alive, he refused friends’ help, almost as if
consciously treading a personal Calvary with no right of redemption.
* Link para a postagem original no “Taste of Cinema”: http://www.tasteofcinema.com/2018/10-masterpieces-of-world-cinema-you-should-not-miss/