Over one million Rio de Janeiro residents live in ghettos devastated by drug trafficking and class warfare. In City of God, director Fernando Meirelles recounts the true story of two children who grew up in the favelas (slums) of the ‘60s and how one turned to violence and another turned to photography during the disco ‘70s. According to the young Rocket, “We were far from the picture-perfect postcard image of Rio de Janeiro.” This ultra-realist MTV-style spectacle has the style and urgency of Amores Perros but none of its moral ambiguities—every other line of Rocket’s more or less throwaway voiceover makes gratuitous reference to the holiness and irony of the film’s title and everyone’s not-so-divine function as god, devil or angel of vengeance. Only when Meirelles chooses to focus on the rival Li’l Zé and Knockout Ned’s ironic relationship to local police and media does the film transcend the non-stop bullet parade. Still, Meirelles’s competency as a storyteller is remarkable, as is the jittery lyricism with which he connects the film’s many narratives and characters. Tarantino’s influence is all over City of God though the effortless grace with which the entire film is assembled more accurately brings to mind Scorsese’s Goodfellas. Even if the film packs the overall resonance of Casino, it’s still never lacking in excitement. The calculated vigor and brutalism should appeal to anyone who hates reading subtitles, and as such Miramax may have a crossover hit on its hands.
- Fernando Meirelles
- Bráulio Mantovani
- Matheus Nachtergaele, Seu Jorge, Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino de Hora, Phellipe Haagensen, Jonathan Haagensen, Gero Camilo, Renato de Souza, Karina Falcão, Graziela Moretto, Roberta Rodriquez Silvia, Douglas Silva
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