Sunday, May 6, 2012

969. Cidade de Deus/City of God (2002)

Running Time: 130 minutes
Directed By: Fernando Meirelles, Katia Lund
Written By: Braulio Mantovani
Main Cast: Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino da Hora, Phellipe Haagensen, Matheus Nachtergaele, Seu Jorge
Click here to view the trailer


I hope everyone who is taking the time to read the posts, is enjoying "Seven Shadows". There's only two days left, so I hope you'll all stick with Karen and I to catch the final two days of this collaborative event. Meanwhile, I'm still cruising along on my journey through THE BOOK. Tonight, I traveled to the City of God.

The film takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but more specifically it takes place in the City of God - a suburb of Rio and a very dangerous slum, located in the city. The film is narrated by the main character, Rocket (Rodrigues), who has lived in the City of God all his life and is one of the few honest residents. For the most part, the City of God is populated by hoodlums, who know nothing more than toting guns and doing drugs. The film starts with a group of men trying to chase down a runaway chicken. The group look like a seedy gang and most of them are carrying guns. We come to a standstill in the middle of the street, with Rocket in the middle, a gang on one side of him and the cops on the other. The narration then picks up and we flashback to the 1960s, where Rocket tells us about the main characters and their rise to power in the City of God. It all starts with three men, nicknamed the Tender Trio and made up of Goose, Shaggy and Clipper. They're hoods through and through, as they spend their days and night robbing business owners. Goose is Rocket's brother, but Rocket distances himself from the criminal life. The Tender Trio are often accompanied by some children that idolize them. The children are named Li'l Dice and Benny. Ultimately the Tender Trio dissolve and it's actually the hangers-on, Li'l Dice and Benny, who rise to power and hold the City of God hostage with fear. Meanwhile, Rocket wants nothing more than to lose his virginity, smoke pot and become a photographer.

At times "City of God" reminded me of a Martin Scorsese film, with it's gang related story and it's use of extreme violence to get it's message across. Other times the film reminded me of a Quentin Tarantino, in the way the story was told, using quick editing, flashbacks, alternate angles of the same scenes and even chapter names written across the screen to break up the story. And yet, there were even other times that the film reminded me of a Sergio Leone picture, showing a group of small children, robbed of their youth and thrust into adult situations, like murder and other crimes, because of their surroundings (ala Once Upon a Time in Amerca). No matter who or what it reminded me of, there's no denying that "City of God" also utilized innovative techniques to tell it's story and stood out as a fantastic motion picture on it's own merits, despite the fact that it was obviously paying homage to certain other filmmakers.

At first, I really didn't think it was going to be for me. However, the film used foreshadowing and flashback to perfection and I'm a sucker for that, so it won me over fairly easily. The BOOK cites the film as a "horror movie of the first order" and you can't deny that, as the film showcases one of the meanest, nastiest villains I've ever seen portrayed on screen, in the form of Li'l Ze (a.k.a. Li'l Dice). It was a shock to me to find out that the actors used were all non-actors, real youths who actually grew up in the City of God. They all could have second careers if they wanted them, because all the principles turned in standout performances. I don't think there will be many people who won't like this film. As I read it over, prior to watching it, I wondered what was so great about a Brazilian slum that this movie could be currently ranked at #18 on the IMDb TOP 250. Well, really, there isn't much that isn't great about it. In fact, if I were to put myself on the spot right now and force myself to find something to nitpick about, I'm not sure what it could be. It's not the best film I've seen from THE BOOK thus far, nor is it the best film I've seen during this 100, but it definitely stands out, it's different and it makes an important story, that yearns to be told, interesting.

After watching "City of God" you can't help but sympathize with it's residents, wonder how these people live in fear everyday of their lives, worrying about gunfire on the street and if they'll live to see tomorrow.  This film makes you a stronger advocate for peace and you wish that everyone could just live their lives without facing fear every minute of it. I'm ranting and raving again. "City of God" has something for everyone - a great story, told in an intelligent and enticing way, good camerawork, brilliant, young, non-actors, who really bust their butt to have their story told in a powerful way and a message.

RATING: 8.5/10  I can't go all the way...just because. I know that's a terrible reason not to go all the way, but it's my blog and I guess I can do that. Seriously though, a '10' is something that I don't even have to contemplate the rating of and I did contemplate this one.


May 6, 2012  12:50am

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