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  • "Benjamim" is director Monique Gardenberg's second feature, following her interesting though not quite fully accomplished "Jenipapo" (1995). Based on a novel by the immensely talented Brazilian songwriter Chico Buarque (who is also a playwright/singer/writer), it tells the story of a man in his sixties, Benjamim (played by veteran actor Paulo José), who meets by chance young Ariela Masé (newcomer Cleo Pires). He is taken aback by her striking resemblance to his long-ago lover Castana Beatriz (also Pires) and flashbacks slowly unfold the truth of what happened in the past, with political innuendos.

    "Benjamin" has professional qualities, an experienced crew working behind the camera, and a warm performance by one of Brazil's all-time great film actors (Paulo José). But there are major problems: a) we outguess the plot far in advance; b) there are totally expendable sequences, some of them because they're useless to plot development (e.g. Zeca Pagodinho's musical numbers, thrown in for commercial reasons) and some because they're really bad (the rape scene in the empty apartment, for example) c) although most sequences in "the present time" are OK in mood, the flashbacks simply don't work - they look terribly phony and poised; d) the casting criteria - although Benjamim is played by young Danton Mello in the flashbacks and by 68-year-old Paulo José in the present time, Rodolfo Bottino plays his character in BOTH past and present -- that's a stretch!!; e) Cleo Pires (daughter of TV and film star Glória Pires) fails completely in what was meant to be a star-making performance -- sorry, but she hasn't got (at least not yet) the talent, voice or screen presence to draw our attention to Ariela OR Castana, she is painfully inexperienced and is probably the main responsible for our detachment from the story and ultimately from the film.

    In the end, I felt kind of sad, because it's a film I'd have liked to enjoy, if only for the talents involved - but it just doesn't deliver. My vote: 4 out of 10.
  • jayelc22 March 2015
    Warning: Spoilers
    ****May Contain Spoilers**** "Benjamim" is a well crafted film that uses the past and the present to develop an interesting character, Benjamim. Benjamim is a model who at an old age begins to suffer flashbacks to his younger self after seeing a woman who is similar in appearance to his former lover that he unwittingly betrayed. As events develop Benjamim meets his doom in a similar manner to his old lover and he finally comes to terms with his guilt.

    This film brings to mind Christopher Nolan's "Memento" because of the influence of memory and the constant interplay between the past and the present. The film also provides commentary on Brazilian politics and totalitarian regimes.
  • mstate201422 March 2015
    Warning: Spoilers
    Personally, I really liked this film. The use of two actors to portray Benjamim (young and old) was very effective in that the death of Castana isn't shown until the majority of the story has already been told. This builds suspense in the beginning of the film, so the connection between Castana and Ariela is held back, which is much more interesting than it would have been if it was revealed in the beginning. The central theme of the film is the connection between the past and present, and how actions in the present are affected by similar actions in the past. For this reason, present events could happen in the same way as actions of the past, which can offer a sense of deja vu.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The main character, Benjamim Zambraia (Paulo José), is an old model/mediocre actor who is haunted by memories of his past. He meets Ariela Masé (Cleo Pires), a beautiful woman identical to an ex-girlfriend whose death he himself caused (advertently or inadvertently, it isn't clear). The movie is made up of a mosaic of memories between past and present, both Benjamim's and Ariela's, with political undertones throughout.

    Movie adaptations of books are never "perfect," whether due to audience expectation or the fact that it's impossible to cram all of the subtle details into two hours. The mishmash made the movie a bit hard to follow at times, especially because the memory sequences weren't necessarily in chronological order. However, the aesthetic doesn't detract from the movie from the movie - it merely requires multiple watches to catch all the details. We come to see that the present mirrors the past in certain ways, and by the end of the movie we come full circle with parallel situations in past and present.

    The cinematography was great, and creatively captured the mood and personalities of the characters and their settings perfectly. I thought Paulo José was fantastic. I didn't think Cleo Pires's acting was a letdown, per sé. I thought the character Ariela was convincing, though not phenomenal. With all the complexities in her plot and situation I think she could have been portrayed with much more depth but I did find her to be a bit bland.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Benjamin Zambraia is an older man who has a storied past. One day he meets a woman that sparks significant memories from his past. Benjamin tries to court this younger woman throughout the film, but what comes from his efforts will be his ultimate downfall.

    The film was slightly confusing in the fact that it was sometimes difficult to follow the plot and distinguish the past from the present. Overall I would say that I enjoyed the film, but I will probably not watch it again. It was interesting to watch how Benjamin's curiosity and persistence causes his death at the end of the film. We also note the disparity that the woman Benjamin is interested in shows as she is leading him to his death. There were several opportunities for him to not follow her to the trap, but it would be uncharacteristic of Benjamin to not have taken the ride to the empty house with her.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Benjamim Zambraia is a melancholic old man, who lives in the past through his incessant daydreaming. He yearns for his true love, a woman (Castana Beatriz) he eventually sentenced to death out of spite. In the present he becomes acquainted with a woman who is a carbon copy of his old flame. Ariella. The film features three plots which all intertwine in an interesting way, flipping between several time periods; Ariella's troubled background, Benjamim's present life, and Benjamim's past. Full marks go to the cinematography which does great at capturing the 70's in Brazil, as well as alluding to the loneliness of Benjamim Zambraia. There are plot holes littered throughout the film, some for dramatic effect, some to the annoyance of the audience. Some of these may have been due to the intricacies of Portuguese which were missed by this viewer.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I found the movie very interesting and well thought out, there is a parallel plot going on with the 70s Benjamim and Castana, which connects to his present "relationship" with Ariela. No matter the interpretation of Ariela's true character, the viewer can link scenes of Castana's assassination to Benjamim's by Castana's child crying, which is Ariela. What confused me is ongoing frustration that Ariela encounters when trying to write to her mother, who I thought was Castana, but the scene where she is murdered, Ariela is very young, yet she looks to be in her mid-twenties when she receives a note that says her mom died. I interpret this as the government trying to hide the fact that they actually murdered her mother. All in all, a great movie.
  • I don't agree completely with debblyst. The film is exceptionally well played by all actors, especially Cleo Pires. I say this maybe because I am perceiving the whole film as having a fellinian atmosphere. I admit, I'm a big fan of Federico Fellini and Italian cinema in general. I also know that Brazilian cinema had serious influences from the Italians. Italian actor Adolfo Celi founded modern theater in Brazil in the 50s. And Cleo Pires reminded me through her irresistible smile, especially captured in so many close-ups, the smile that had the greatest actress of all time, the female Chaplin, Fellini's wife, Giulietta Masina. Cleo Pires is performing a dual role in absolute naturalness, she's original, beautiful, glamorous. The photography is great. The editing is very professional. The music is inspired. Castana and Benjamin are going to the cinema to see Claude Lelouch's "Un homme et une femme". Their kiss on the music by Francis Lai is the best scene in the whole movie. Agree with the fact that the film is a little bit predictable. Agree also with the fact that the rape scene is disappointing, could have been more realistic. 8 out of 10.
  • The film is structured around the life of the main character, Benjamim Zambraia, an actor and former model struggling to cope with events that happened in his past. The movie is ripe with cyclical themes, often flashing back and forth between past and present, and has a kind of beautifully harsh aesthetic to it. Scenes from the past are juxtaposed against scenes from the present, and it becomes apparent that history appears to be repeating itself in Benjamim's life. None of the characters are particularly sympathetic, which I think adds to the ambiance of the movie. Overall, I found the film to be a well-crafted glimpse into some of the less attractive qualities of the human psyche.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The movie is about an old man, Benjamin. The movie mainly talks about Benjamin's love story and his past. At the beginning of the movie, old Benjamin meets a woman (Ariela) who looks same as his ex-girlfriend Castana. Then, the movie goes on with two different stories about Ariela and Castana. The director used two different actors for Benjamin in order to separate old Benjamin and young Benjamin. It is interesting to see how Benjamin's story with Castana is connected to Ariela.

    The movie in general is not bad. The plot is interesting and it makes the audience to think deeply about life. However, the fact that there are a lot of flashbacks makes the movie confusing. It is hard to follow the movie and some parts (especially Ariela's story) do not make sense. The director made the movie too complicated. It would be a good movie if it was simpler.
  • Instead of focusing on the flaws mentioned by the first reviewer, I'd like to emphasize the fact that this film was very well made. The production is excellent, the photography is beautiful, the acting is good enough (not stellar),and the plot is complex (it is confusing for a reason): Chico Buarque's novel is just as complex, with constant flashbacks which I believe are appropriate to connect past and present. The present is "determined" by the actions of the past.

    This sense of the inescapable is central to both Buarque's and this film's meaning(s). One cannot analyze either the film or the novel without some background knowledge of the historical context (Brazil during the 1960s up until the late 1980s). The continuity between the long period of military dictatorship (1964-1985) and the supposed entrance of the country into a "democratic" present, a present which is usually seen as a break with the violent past, are depicted as mirrors of one another through the very structure of the narrative.

    Unfortunately, without this historical background, one may find this film a "let down" to quote the first reviewer. This is due to the fact that a casual viewer, seeking merely entertainment, will be in the dark as far as the subtle historical references of the film narrative to both the dictatorship and the post-dictatorship's least visible traits.