City of God (2002)


Directed by Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund
Written by Bráulio Mantovani based on the novel by Paulo Lins
(number 185)

I knew that this movie was violent, and that it started with a chicken chase? I didn’t realise it was so bright and fun and beautiful in amongst the violence. The music, the lighting, the colours and the joy with which the story is told is all intoxicating to watch. I wish I’d seen this back when it came out, at the film festival. Watching it was just like seeing some of my favourite festival movies, like when I used to take time off work and go during the day to whatever was on.

The chicken chase is brilliant, how did they keep the camera so close to the chicken? It’s impressive stuff.

This movie reminds me of Guy Richie, of Quenton Tarantino, but it’s so much slicker than that. It doesn’t feel like it’s trying as hard as Tarantino does, and the colours and the intensity of the lighting put it into a better league for cinematography. Tarantino’s shots are all carefully composed, these are also carefully composed, I’m sure but it feels effortless. Like a particularly pretty documentary.

Does it make me love the people? Yeah it does. For example I was worried about Benny exploiting Tiago but they were so freaking cute, Tiago facilitating Benny’s makeover, and they both looks so happy about it. The story is fast, chopping and changing main players pretty often but something about it gets you invested in the characters very fast. Everyone is portrayed so rawly human, so vulnerable and emotional.

The hardest to watch scene is the two kids from the runts being cornered by L’il Ze. Those two kids looked really, truly afraid. Unpleasant stuff. Later on the dead children, the fall out of the gang war is shown again and again but it’s never quite as shocking as watching those two boys cornered, crying for their lives.

I was thinking about trying to call out the actors but I found it hard to name one over another. It felt so much like a documentary that I think all the actors are astoundingly good. From the little kids to the old men, they’re all really in it. Having said this, I have no idea how close any of this story is to the truth, so… take my documentary comment with some salt.

Bechdel test: Two named women do talk, but it’s about sex with their husbands, so I don’t know if that’d count. Like, there’s a bit in the middle where they’re just talking about approach/sex tips but. I think one of them is named Bernece, but unsure of the other’s name. It’s immediately followed by the brutal murder of one of them so… in terms of women, this movie isn’t about that.

Best line:

Cabeleira: Jeez, Bernice, talking about love with you is pretty complicated, isn’t it?
Berenice: Love, you gotta be kidding. It’s just a game.
Cabeleira: But it’s just that this jerk here loves you.

State of Mind: I dunno. I got bored during this. I loved the pace, and the chopping and changing but after a while it became… too samey? too much chopping and changing and not enough consistency. I took a break most of the way through because I’d lost my ability to pay attention. Watching the end after the break was better. I don’t know that I’d watch this again though, the start was more fun to me than the film as a whole.

Watched movie count

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