In 1594 in Brazil, the Tupinambás Indians are friends of the Frenches and their enemies are the Tupiniquins, friends of the Portugueses. A Frenchman (Arduíno Colassanti) is captured by the ... See full summary »
In 1594 in Brazil, the Tupinambás Indians are friends of the Frenches and their enemies are the Tupiniquins, friends of the Portugueses. A Frenchman (Arduíno Colassanti) is captured by the Tupinambás, and in spite of his trial to convince them that he is French, they believe he is Portuguese. The Frenchman becomes their slave, and maritally lives with Seboipepe (Ana Maria Magalhães). *Contains Spoilers* Later, he uses powder in the cannons that the Portuguese left behind to defeat the Tupiniquins in a battle. In order to celebrate the victory, the Indians decide to eat him. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Nelson Pereira dos Santos' 'Como Era Gostoso o Meu Francês' (renamed 'How tasty was my little Frenchman' for its US release) is a good example of the cultural centrism and the difficulties in translation of the movement towards a new cinema. In it's realistic, non-judgmental portrayal of 16th century Brazil, Santos is able to speak for people who could never have spoken to us today. Yet the differences in culture on the natives of that land are difficult to understand through the lens in which history is written by its victors.
Santos' involvement in the cinema novo style is immediately apparent, as it manifests in photographic realism. The lighting in each frame looks entirely natural (and than likely it only uses natural light) and camera movement is limited if any happened at all. Sound is clear and loud, but the near absence of post-production sound effects immerses the viewer in voices and nature. The main exception to the natural style of the film is the occasional inclusion of tribal music in the background, which use some reed-type instrument that might not be accurate for the tribal theme.
The main obstacle for the viewer is a culture that they have very little concept of before the film. Unlike Hollywood films that sanitize their portrayal of native Americans with stereotypical clothing, Santos' rightly presents the native peoples' of Brazil as they were without clothes. At times the film looks more like an issue of national geographic than a fictional story. The indifference to the tribe's practice of cannibalism not only comes from the perspective of the tribe, but even the Portugese in the film act in apathy towards it. If anything, the film comes just short of glorifying cannibalism until it justifies the act through vengeful rights. Indeed the mistaken Frenchman too accepts his place in the history of the oppressed natives, and as our protagonist he leads the audience to accepting it as well. The marriage of the tribe's woman and the Frenchman parallels Brazil's past and future, but in some ways encourages that a co-existence is possible if tolerance can be given. All of these cultural differences form a boundary to the audience that can be broken down if one can accept the history of oppression and integrate them into the themes of acceptance in the film.
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