18 October 2002 | Bobs-9
A bit of Fellini, a bit of Shakespeare
This is another rare bird, indeed. The notes on the DVD box suggested it is part Fellini and part "Wizard of Oz" in style. It's a Brazilian flick, and so I believe the language that is (sparsely) spoken is Portuguese, although the setting is a long-ago, once-upon-a-time Spain.
The first 10 or15 minutes consists of a long (rather too long for my taste) prolog showing a gypsy funeral, with no dialog and consisting almost entirely of Flamenco-style strutting and posturing. I was a bit worried that the entire film would turn out to be in this style, but a flashback brings a radical, and a bit jarring, change in style as we're transported to a sort of storybook Spain of the past where the two lovers first meet. This scene is, as the DVD notes suggested, strongly Felliniesque, with grotesque characters exhibiting various human vices in the most outlandish and cartoon-like manner. Very well performed, directed, and produced, it's some of the best faux Fellini I've seen.
We subsequently experience another shift in style as the escaping lovers, followed by the girl's possessive, mercenary father and a simple-minded servant, find themselves in an enchanted forest. Not really much like "The Wizard of Oz," as the DVD notes suggested, these scenes are more in the nature of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and it seems to me that Max Reinhardt's 1935 film of that play is the main inspiration. The elements of that production are much in evidence, i.e. young lovers, clumsy buffoons, goblins, faeries, and elves. There's even a character that's the spitting image of Puck.
A bit inconsistent in style, and low in production budget, this nevertheless shows what can be done with limited resources and lots of imagination. Another great example of this can be found in the work of the Canadian director Guy Maddin. I found "Manôushe" to be great fun to watch. I'm glad to have discovered it, and hope to see more interesting projects from writer-director Luiz Begazo.