Saturday, December 15, 2007
I wish I could provide as detailed a review of Carlos Diegos's 1984 film Quilombo as this one or this one, but the simple truth is, I kinda napped through long stretches of it as I watched it tonight. I was more awake during the willfully eccentric making-of featurette (which looks like something Godard might make if he was hired to shoot promos for HBO) that I watched first; it not only encapsulates the plot (17th century slaves escape their Portuguese owners and create utopian societies in the wilds of Brazil, eventually leading to armed guerrilla warfare) but spells out the mythology behind various scenes that might otherwise be baffling to those of us not versed in Candomblé. You also get to see Gilberto Gil at work on the soundtrack, which is cool.
That soundtrack appears to be the most controversial aspect of the film in the eyes of many folks who've written about it on IMDB. One such reviewer describes Gil's music as "cheesy pop rhythms best left to the disco or bad cops [sic] dramas." A defender, on the other hand, draws a parallel to the intentionally anachronistic classic rock anthems in A Knight's Tale. Me, I liked it; I'm pretty sure I've got the title song on some compilation or other, and all the music is both catchy and evocative of a certain tone. I also appreciated the chance to learn more about Zumbi, leader of the rebellion, who gets name-checked by all sorts of Brazilian musicians. (I could be way off base with this analogy, but I feel like an outsider to US culture who keeps hearing about this guy "Malcolm X" in all these rap and soul songs, then rents Spike Lee's movie of the same name to find out what the hell they're all talking about.)
Great costumes, nice touches of what my friend Ed Cardoni calls "blatant artifice," intriguingly low-key (and thus quite effective) battle scenes. I drifted a lot, and apparently slept through all the key moments in which various orishas manifest themselves that looked so cool in the featurette, but I didn't feel the urge to rewind and watch them.