Caught the latest Brazilian film to hit these shores the day before yesterday. Down at the Barbican Cidade Baixa was playing and a friend and I went to see it. With less than 20 of us in the cinema, you might be able to tell it wasn't all that popular.
The film's set in Salvador, although the camerawork could have had it set anywhere really. One of the producers is Walter Salles (he of The Motorcycle Diaries and Central Station fame) and one of the actors broke through with City of God.
The story's not all that original: two boys, friends since childhood, meet a girl. She's a prostitute and dancer. They offer her a lift on their boat to Salvador in exchange for 'benefits'. A fight breaks out in Cachoeira on the way to the coast, one of the boys nearly dying and bringing the three all closer together. Cue sexual jealousy between the two and a girl who realises she's caught in the middle.
It's a story that's been told before. Yes, there was some tension, but the film really could have done with some more editing. I found myself drifting off at times; it just wasn't engaging enough. Did I care about the characters? Well, maybe a bit, but not enough.
The problem with Brazilian (and Latin American) cinema is that it's becoming harder to live up to the hype. The renaissance in cinema over the past decade means that although more films are being made - and shown here - they aren't necessarily the cream of the crop any more. Whereas films like City of God, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Amores Perros, Central Station, etc have all been acclaimed (and rightly so), they were big productions among a small pool being produced. But as the number of films increases, the law of averages seems to dictate that the quality goes down a little.
Perhaps that's no bad thing though. After all, not everything coming out of Hollywood is worth the money spent. But it does mean a broad range of material, to cater for all tastes. Maybe that's what we're starting to see with contemporary Latin American cinema - although I'm sure there are some who will lament the situation.