Tuesday, February 26, 2008

KBT Presents: TROPA DE ELITE

"So hard-boiled it's practically cast in iron, Brazilian crime saga Elite Squad makes even the toughest recent US cop dramas look like Hilary Duff romcoms. Hyper-macho, with a steely ring of well-researched realism, the first fiction venture ... is pitched somewhere between the full-on flash of Brazilian hit City Of God and the narrative complexity of TV's The Wire." (Screen International review of Tropa De Elite)

Over the history of the KBT screening series (which is at #113 by the way) there have only been three 'blind' screenings of films. The first was Roman Polanski's vampire comedy The Fearless Vampire Killers or Pardon Me But You're Teeth are in My Neck which admittedly was not that funny, and one of Polanski's worst films in his extensive filmography. The second was martial arts spectacular and the sequel to Thailand's fabulous action export Ong Bak, namely Tom Yum Goong which also starred wunderkind Tony Jaa, but it was plagued with narrative problems to the point where it was painful to watch if folks weren't getting pulverized by Jaa's elbows and knees. The third was Russian fantasy epic (the most expensive movie ever to come out of the Motherland) Wolfhound. It was watchable in an 1980s cheesy throwback sort of way, but I'd be very hesitant to call it a classic, or even put it in the category of quality with other Russian blockbusters The Nightwatch and The Daywatch.

The long preamble is because I'm blind screening Brazil's recent Berlinale (one of the most prestigious film festivals worldwide) winner, Tropa De Elite. I had been meaning to screen José Padilha's first feature, Bus 174, the gripping documentary on a bus hijacking in Rio De Janeiro which uses this as a jumping point to examine the entire systematic failure of the cities social structure. I just do not own the film, so it hasn't been at easy grasp. Well, I've got a fan-subbed DVD of his latest film and I'm thinking that this ought to break the blind-screening mediocrity evidenced in the above 3 films. The film is already notorious, a household name long before it was even released in theatres here and has been ridiculously profitable in Brazil. Not bad for another analysis of social complexities of Brazilian urban culture (although keep in mind that the audience there (and abroad) has been well primed by the success of Bus 174 and even moreso, City of God (which has a sequel of sorts coming out in North America later this year, and there is a Brazilian TV show on top of that). South America seems to be hotbed of great cinema that blends entertainment and message together so well (see also Nine Queens for a great metaphor on the Argentinian economic collapse cloaked as a con-artist genre flick).

I'm rambling a bit with this description of the film because, well I've not seen it beyond a preview of the disc. So below, I'll just put a few clips from English language reviews of the film (It has no release schedule in North America at the moment that I'm aware of, and has only really screened outside of Brazil in Berlin a two weeks ago):

Wikipedia: "The movie, set in 1997, depicts the story of Captain Nascimento, a BOPE captain, who with the imminent birth of his first child, is determined to leave the battalion and find a safer position for the sake of his family, but first he must find a suitable replacement for him. At the same time, the movie focuses on two childhood friends, Matias and Neto, who become cadets in the military police, but become dismayed at the corruption surrounding them. Eventually, both Nascimento and the cadets' paths intersect, when the captain hopes that one of the two may become the substitute he is eager to find, as both decide to join the BOPE."

Screen International: (see above)

Variety: “Elite Squad” is an honest picture of violence in the favelas, or slums, of Rio de Janeiro, and the rampant official corruption that sustains it.

Beyond Hollywood:
Overall, this is a thoughtful, insightful and frequently darkly funny film, but the impact of its social commentary is very real.

Come out TUESDAY, February 26th for this special international treat, an early look at the film if you are not from Brazil and do not speak Portugese. In the spirit of things, we'll crack a bottle of port alongside with some spicy meat and roughage. Wine and Animal at 8pm. Trailers and Showtime at 8:30.

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