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Carlos Reichenbach (#110 of 4)

Rotterdam 2012: Coffin Joe

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Rotterdam 2012: Coffin Joe
Rotterdam 2012: Coffin Joe

“The natural is as false as the false. Only the arch false is really real. I’m talking about José Mojica Marins, filmmaker of excess and crime,” wrote an 18-year-old critic named Rogério Sganzerla. His imagination had been seized by the first Brazilian horror movie, At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul, in 1964. Its director, a son of Spanish immigrants who’d spent much of his childhood in the backs of movie theaters, made the film based on a nightmare. Out of stray scraps of film reels dug out of the trash, Mojica filmed himself in a top hat and cape, pointing long fingernails at the screen and howling as a monstrous magician named Coffin Joe.

The film performed well at the box office, inspiring a sequel three years later, This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse. Its storyline was similar to At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul’s: Coffin Joe descends on a small town, murdering the menfolk and seeking the woman who will give him an immortal child. He curses human morality, over and over. But can Coffin Joe beat the forces of God?

Rotterdam 2012: Boca Porn

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Rotterdam 2012: Boca Porn
Rotterdam 2012: Boca Porn

Walter Hugo Khouri is an undervalued master. I had seen two of his films before watching a third in the Boca do Lixo series. Both 1964’s Eros and 1968’s The Amorous Ones are strangely disquieting films about casanovas facing mortality. In both films men use and abuse women to compete with each other, and then, upon realizing that the women are human beings, get slapped with their own desperation. The films’ tones shift from light to dark while the characters keep consistent. Men end alone, lost in nature, their charm wound up.

One could say many of the same things about 1980’s Invitation to Pleasure, which played at Rotterdam. Its two male leads are a middle-aged dentist and his businessman friend who set up a bachelor’s loft to have sex with young women together, each man glancing at the other as they go. In time, one wife finds out; the other’s known all along. And just as the men are trapped inside their desires, the women are trapped inside a social condition. “Don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s better out there,” the younger wife hears, and fears she’s heard right; the older has long since decided not to give up the big house and nice clothes. These women’s minds are dying. Is their place better than that of the screaming girls in the loft?

Rotterdam 2012: The Option

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Rotterdam 2012: <em>The Option</em>
Rotterdam 2012: <em>The Option</em>

In the 1960s, a branch of Brazilian cinema emerged so daring, thrilling, and varied that in hindsight people disagreed even over what to call it. For critic-filmmaker Jairo Ferreira, who chronicled the movement, its unconventional narratives and formal audacity made it the “cinema of invention”; for filmmaker-critic Glauber Rocha, briefly a member but chiefly part of the rival Cinema Novo movement, its films were “udigrudi,” a Brazilian spin on the American underground. The consensus term, finally, was Cinema Marginal, and though many of the movement’s titles were censored by Brazil’s military dictatorship, it meant marginal and not marginalized. To be marginalized implies a passive victimization; to be marginal can—and often did—suggest a proud self-definition.