The road-movie format is as central to Carlos Diegues’s Bye Bye Brazil as it is to Wim Wenders’s Kings of the Road, and for the same reasons. Both films are about countries groping for self-definition, and in both the role of cinema as an endangered collective cultural memory is evident: One of the characters in Diegues’s film is an aged projectionist who plays Brazilian classics to empty halls, a bit of critique compounded by the cameo appearance of Jofre Soares, an actor closely associated with the country’s Cinema Novo of the 1960s. Growing equally forgotten in the modernized landscape is the traveling show, though the amiably tawdry Caravan Rolidei, an itinerant circus troupe headed by the Lord Gypsy (José Wilker) and the Queen of the Rumba (Betty Faria), still boasts enough romantic allure to captivate Ciço (Fábio Júnior). A young accordionist who dreams of leaving his barren, small town, Ciço joins the show with his pregnant wife (Zaira Zambelli), but their dreams of success become unlikely as the caravan putters toward the Amazon and a bewilderingly transitory land takes form. One of the most striking aspects of Bye Bye Brazil is how the movie, originally received as a carnivalesque, typically Brazilian dramedy, seems uneasy about what “typically Brazilian” meant at the cusp of a new decade. When the Lord Gypsy ends one of his performances by summoning a downpour of fake snow on his audience, the magical realism of the moment is tinged with cultural confusion when the magician claims that the people’s “most intimate wish” is being like other countries where snow falls for real. (It’s no accident that the Caravan Rolidei is named after the Portuguese pronunciation of an English word.) Though his characters bemoan the changes underway, Diegues remains optimistically attuned to the bracing mishmash of races, moods, and attitudes they meet on the road. The title suggests closure, yet the film locates a nation very much still in the process of getting to know itself.
The film's palette often comes off as wan and pastel-like when it should pop. The Portuguese mono soundtrack preserves its vigorous hum despite the tinny transfer.
Only a theatrical trailer.
Bye Bye Brazil, hellooooo indifferent DVD transfer.