Astupid scene from Monster’s Ball has Billy Bob Thornton eating chocolate ice cream with a white plastic spoon. This was director Marc Forster’s laughable way of indicating he was thinking about race—which wasn’t very much, but suckers still went hunting for meaning in his cartoon-trite metaphors. That film’s fan club will surely get a kick out of Sérgio Machado’s Lower City, another specious mix of febrile sex and faux race commentary. Every one of Machado’s symbols are underlined, highlighted, and given a blinking light, none more preposterous than the spectacle of a cock fight in which two roosters—one black, one white—battle to the death. Ogling the fight are two childhood friends, Deco (Lázaro Ramos) and Naldinho (Wagner Moura), who start carrying prostitutes across the bay the separates the lower and upper parts of Brazil’s Salvador del Bahia after befriending (and digging into) the luscious young Karinna (Alice Braga). When their threesome matures, it’s only a matter of time before Karinna must choose between the two men. For the audience, the girl’s crunch time becomes a game—a boxing match that will leave someone sore and defeated. It’s a close one: Karinna clutches the black Deco’s tight bottom as if it were a life preserver, but she hangs pictures of Jude Law and Ralph Fiennes on her wall, suggesting she might prefer men of Naldinho’s complexion. Anticipation is the extent of the film’s thrills. When Karinna ends up pregnant, Naldinho promises her a home in the film’s City of Metaphor with a bed whose beauty is predicated on its whiteness. Later, when Naldinho asks Karinna to pick between him and Deco, he may as well be addressing the audience, which must determine whether any of the film’s explicit gringo-this-nigger-that talk passes for serious insight into Brazil’s racial problems. One scene’s affront comes close to accomplishing this: Naldinho embarrasses Deco by describing his friend as the son of his childhood maid. Machado gets at the way racism is unconsciously expressed in society, but this is one good thought in a film that regards the sex its characters are having more highly than it does the ethics of a city.
- Palm Pictures
- 98 min
- Sérgio Machado
- Sérgio Machado, Beto Villares
- Lázaro Ramos, Wagner Moura, Alice Braga, Maria Menezes, João Miguel Leonelli, Débora Santiago, Hugo Rodas, Divina Valéria, Dois Mundos
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