Monday, April 16, 2012

The Craft (orig. Riscado) [2010]

Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing -
AdoroCinema listing -

The Craft (orig. Riscado) directed and cowritten by Gustavo Pizzi along with Karine Telez (who plays the film's leading role) is a well-written, well-acted, well-crafted small budget film from Brazil which played recently at the 28th Annual Chicago Latino Film Festival.  It's about Bianca (played by Karine Telez) a young actress right at the edge of becoming "not so young anymore" still trying to find her big break in contemporary Rio de Janeiro.

Thus anyone who's ever been a "struggling actor/actress" (or known one or two) could probably relate to this story quite well.  A foreign viewer (like myself) gets the added bonus of watching this story play out with the amidst the particular color and rhythms of Rio one of the most storied/enchanting cities in the world.

As a struggling actress, Bianca gets her odd jobs/gigs -- as a costumed/singing balloon delivery person that any non-descript Rio office staff would call to "surprise" a boss or co-worker on a significant birthday or anniversary (just like any non-descript office staff would do pretty much anywhere); as part of a "zombie" troupe run by two-bit "agent" (hey, at least he's not an outright pimp ...) Mauricio (played by Camilo Pellegrini) plugging random clubs or catering at random "zombie themed dinners" across Rio de Janeiro; singing in full 18-19th century colonial dress complete with "parasol in hand" backed-up by samba band playing behind her ... all standing in front of a new _neighborhood_ beauty salon whose owner apparently wanted to "open with splash" ;-).  Again, anyone who's ever known (or been) a struggling actor/actress could probably relate.

Indeed, the inevitable scene where Bianca is (once again...) finding herself paying her landlady only 1/2 the rent is certainly priceless.  The good natured landlady, takes the money and is presumably willing to 'wait for the rest,' but not without the inevitable lecture.  So she tells Bianca: "You know, when you're young it's good to dream.  In fact, you have to dream.  But then you have to wake-up ..." ;-) ;-)  How can one _not_ like a movie so well written and acted as this? ;-)

But Bianca does appear to stumble into a break.  At a seemingly random audition, like so many before, after going through the requisite posing in front of the camera (turn left, now turn right ...), she's asked by the film's production assistant (the audition is considered by the director so run-of-the-mill at this point, that he leaves the initial interviewing to his production assistant) to perform to those present "something from her life."  Others, ahead of her said a few words, perhaps tried to sing, etc.  Bianca, asks the production assistant "for a prop," specifically for a lighter.  With the lighter in hand, she flicks it on, and still with perhaps a thick Brazilian accent sings Marylin Monroe's famous "Happy Birthday, Mr. President."  The production assistant is floored.  "Where'd you learn to do this?"  "Well, I deliver balloons to a lot of middle aged bosses in the offices outside ..."  It turns out that the audition was for someone to play a now-famous Brazilian actress (who's since moved to France) "in her early years."

A few days later, she gets a call from the director, who's similarly impressed with her.  So a few days after that, Bianca is able to return her red stained "zombie dress" to Mauricio ... Things are looking up for Bianca, but do they remain there?  Well ... go see the movie! ;-)

Movie buffs will already probably guess that this film has a definite Felini [IMDb] (La Strada [1954] / Nights of Cabiria [1957]) feel to it, the more so since like Federico Fellini [IMDb] and Giulietta Masina [IMDb], the star of those films, the director here, Pizzi, and the star, Telez, are husband and wife.  I would also add that there is a gentleness to this film reminiscent of the famed Brazilian film Central Station (orig. Central do Brasil) [1998].  Then the cinematography and editing of this film is a joy, as various (and appropriate) portions of the film are filmed using (1) standard contemporary contemporary recording equipment, (2) grainy "super 8" style film, and (3) using what one would suspect to be a cell phone.

Thus the film is both simple yet universal in theme, clearly inspired by the film-making of World Cinema's greats of the past yet executed in a thoroughly contemporary/modern way, making for a truly excellent film.

A final note: There is no nudity (or violence, drug use, etc for that matter) in this film at all, nothing that could concern a parent, even if I would not necessarily recommend it for kids as I doubt that they would "get it" yet.   However, I do believe it to be a great, well executed film with a story that anyone of young adult age and above could appreciate.

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