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Madame Satã
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Madame Satã More at IMDbPro »

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12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Cinematic Gem

Author: artguy822 from Boston, MA
13 December 2004

Built on subtly-nuanced performances by an outstanding cast, this film is a real cinematic gem. From the period costumes to the cinematography to the music, everything fits together. Lazaro Ramos as Joao Francisco dos Santos gives a tour de force performance especially powerful given the range of emotions necessary for the role. But all of the actors shine, under the demanding, gifted direction of Mr. Anouz. In some very long takes, for instance when Laurita tells dos Santos of the death of Rehatindho, all aspects of the craft are called into play. It cannot have been easy to maintain for such a long take.

The story is inspirational in the sense that the human spirit triumphs, love fulfills, talent overcomes in even the most sordid circumstances. Whether in Berlin or Brazil, life is, most certainly, a cabaret.

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12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

True meaning of `Fierce'

Author: (benc7ca)
9 April 2004

This is like watching a Jean Genet novel translated into Portuguese and relocated to Brazil, circa 1930. All the characters are present: thieves and whores, drag queens and murders, love and hate. Lázaro Ramos, as Madame Satã, gives a wonderful performance that gives real meaning to the word `fierce';a complicated man whose only possible response to a world that hates him is to rage against it. And what rage! And what love! The family he pieces together, as wounded and damaged as he is, provides the only constant in a life that poverty and exile have doomed to chaos. Karim Ainouz, the director, must be congratulated on this courageous film.

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13 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Femme fatale

Author: jotix100 from New York
27 December 2005

"Madame Sata" is a movie that depicts a bygone era. This colorful film directed by Karim Ainouz concentrates on the life of a charismatic man who lived an interesting life. We are taken to the Rio of the 1930s to witness the night life that flourished in the bohemian Lapa neighborhood, with its many dives and night clubs where all kinds of people mixed together.

This is the story of Joao, a poor black man who is a homosexual living in a macho dominated society. The film opens as Joao is being processed because of a crime he committed. We watch his face in a close-up where an off camera voice is reading what he did, and then we are taken back to watch his life in flashbacks.

Joao, who is an assistant to a French third rate chanteuse, is seen backstage imitating the singer in his own way, which is much better than what that tired woman does on stage. Joao lives in a household that includes Laurita, a friendly prostitute, and Tabu, a gay man who loves dressing as a woman, even for house work.

This was the era where the movies glorify those larger than life women who inspired gays all over the world to imitate them. Joao feels the attraction and after losing Renatinho, he asks the friendly Amador, who owns a bar in the Lapa district to give him a chance to perform in the style of the great divas of the era. The result is an instant success because of the innate talent in Joao. Alas, tragedy strikes when a loud mouth drunk begins to insult Joao, who decides to take matters into his own hand with dire consequences. In real life, Joao was in and out of prisons all his life.

Lazaro Ramos does a fantastic job portraying this complex man who was ahead of his time. Mr. Ramos is the best excuse for watching this Brazilian film that shows that seedy side of a society condemned to live in poverty and need. Marcelia Cartaxo plays Laurita, a true friend, who stuck by Joao no matter how bad things got. Flavioi Bauraqui is another asset in the film appearing as Tabu, the other member of Joao's household. Fellipe Marques is perfect as Renatinho, the man who loved Joao.

"Madame Sata" offers a nostalgic look at the life in Rio during the 30s and it's based on the true story of the man who was made famous for his originality and contribution to a society that tried to keep him away from mixing with them. This is a great directing job by Karim Ainouz, who with the writer, Marcelo Gomes, takes the viewer to a magical ride to the exotic life of that long gone Brazil.

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11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

fascinating and repulsive

Author: Rebecca Gavin (rebeccagavin) from Kansas City
3 July 2004

I found this movie mesmerizing, both due to the lead performance and the depiction of a time and place previously unfamiliar to me. A previous user comment said that Jaoa is heterosexual and that Lorita's baby is his. Just for clarification, he is not, and neither is the baby. I don't know how accurate this bio-pic really is in portraying the life of Jaoa Francisco vos Santos. But the character is a perplexing and complex mixture of violence and tenderness, talent and self-destruction. Clearly a victim of internalized homophobia and brutal class hierarchy, Jaoa knows he is destined for greatness, but can't keep his underlying rage from exploding all over everyone, friend and foe. It's dog eat dog in the slums of Rio, but Jaoa creates a family with a female prostitute named Lorita, her baby(on whom Jaoa dotes sweetly), and the greatly put-upon and abused servant, Tabu. Jaoa takes one step forward, then two steps back--straight in to prison, over and over. The real Jaoa Francisco vos Santos was a highly celebrated female impersonator and lived to the ripe old age of 76, despite an extremely punishing existence. I think the film reveals naked humanity, sometimes the viewer is horrified but can't stop peering into the wreckage.

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12 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Another Great Example of the Marvelous Moment of the Brazilian Cinema

Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
10 July 2004

When I was a boy, Madame Satã was a legend in Rio de Janeiro. João Francisco dos Santos was born in the turn of the century, and was famous for being a very controversial person: homosexual, black, poor, artist, a very violent and excellent fighter and a symbol of Lapa, where he lived. This movie is the dramatization of the ten years before the creation by João Francisco dos Santos of the character Madame Satã, inspired in the 1930 Cecil B. DeMille's Madam Satan (unfortunately, this movie has not been released in Brazil and I have never had the chance to see it). 'Madame Satã' is another great example of the marvelous moment of the Brazilian Cinema. The direction is very precise, using old parts in the city of Rio de Janeiro specially in Lapa and Santa Teresa and a high level photography to recreate life in the 30's in Old Rio. The cast is fantastic, highlighting the performance of the stunning Lázaro Ramos, who is also the leader actor of the excellent and very recommended 'O Homem Que Copiava'. The story, as I previously mentioned, is limited to a short period before the raise of Madame Satã to the scenario of Rio de Janeiro and is very realistic, inclusive showing the homosexual activity of João Francisco. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): 'Madame Satã'

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:


Author: Goyo Pessôa Garcia from Rio de Janeiro
27 November 2002

I feel proud about the Brazilian cinema of the last years. Although facing many difficulties, mainly financial ones, the Brazilian film-makers are proving that it is possible to make a truly high level cinema here.

"Madame Satã" is just another example of this new Brazilian cinematography. Excellent photography, which really brings to the screen the mood of 30's bars and nightclubs from Lapa (Rio de Janeiro traditional bohemian neighbourhood, known also for its violence). The camera is "drunk" and "high" in many moments, in others is able to show tenderness in an ultra violent and uncontrolable character (the scenes where João Francisco takes care of Laurita's baby). The cast is excellent, with a great merit of young Lázaro Ramos, performing a character that has everything to lead to exageration or to a ridiculous acting; even though, Lázaro manages to bring to life in a realistic way someone who is a homosexual with feminine behaviour in some times and in other times is a scary fighter, who could deal with 3 or 4 opponents bare handed.

The main achievement of the film, though, in my opinion, is that the director wanted to show the personality of João Francisco, not worrying too much in telling a story. The plot is almost absent, we are invited to make part of João Francisco's turbulent, violent and difficult life through Lapa's gethos and bars, dealing with prostitutes, police, thugs and dangerous people. We can understand why Francisco,later called "Madame Satã" lived that way (even though we may not agree with it) , having in one hand the fascination for a fairy tale world of fantasy, with songs in French and taking care of a baby and in the other hand dealt with streetfights, robbery and eventual imprisonments in jail. If it is difficult for someone to be poor, black and homosexual in nowaday's Brazil, imagine in the 30's!

Great movie, great acting, great photography, great editing, the only thing I can do is give it a 10!

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Campy liberation

Author: Chris Knipp from Berkeley, California
28 July 2003

João Francisco dos Santos was a real life Rio drag queen or effeminate performer in the Thirties and Forties who was a singer and dancer and a fighter and lover who went to prison many times in his 76-year life including ten years for murder, yet came out after that long stretch and immediately won the prize for the best costume in Carnaval, a boldly spectacular one based on Cecil B. De Mille's character `Madam Satan.' Ainouz's first film features a fiery, committed performance by the actor Lázaro Ramos. The movie's look is important and evocative: the images are uniformly dark and contrasty, not unlike some of Chris Doyle's glorious ones for Wong Kar Wai, with the color dropped down here so far it looks like tinted black and white, and this creates a vivid Brazilian Thirties look. You can smell the cheap perfumes and cologne and the brilliantine on the slicked back hair, and the sweat and the blood and the tears.

João epitomizes and transcends a type of tough, resilient, talented black `sissy' who's no less a man for being attracted to men. Born to slaves and sold as a child, he was consumed by a rage that only strutting and performing could relieve. João lives with what he calls a `limp queen' (Taboo, played by Flavio Bauraqui) whom he protects but often scorns, and a woman whom he's saved and who loves him (Laurita, Marcélia Cartaxo). The other member of the household is Laurita's baby girl. They all live in the low, sinister 'bohemian'quarter of Rio known as Lapa.

For a time João works as a theatrical assistant at a club where he mouths the French lyrics of the chanteuse and her recitation of a pastiche of the 1001 Nights - till he attacks her for being cruel and condescending to him and fights off a half dozen cops and then flees after robbing the club owner for not paying his salary. He has already connected with a lover, Renatinho (Felipe Marquez), a small, pretty light skinned man (and a petty thief) who begs João to show him how to fight. More than once João fends off surrounding teams of heavies or cops like some curious cross-dressing forerunner of Bruce Lee.

Madam Satã progresses through a series of darkly etched vignettes. The subdued lighting causes scenes to flicker out as if candles had burned away or the electricity had failed. At first it may seem as though there's not much here but atmosphere, ample though that may be, and because he's so rejected and lowly, João's flamboyant theatricality in every action begins to seem rather fruitless. But every encounter is intense - the vignette format aids in that effect -especially the love and war clashes between João and his `Indian prince,' Renatinho - and there's a strong sense of how this brave, irrepressible man lived his life. On first meeting the two snort coke and kiss in the club restroom and Renatinho follows João home fawningly after observing his courage, asking for fighting lessons all the way.

Another strong relationship is with Laurita, and still another is with Amadór, owner of the much friendlier bar where João eventually blossoms as a macho reincarnation of Josephine Baker. When these performances begin, the movie finally bursts fully into life and all its promises of repressed talent and latent theatrical exoticism are powerfully, if only momentarily, fulfilled.

Provocation by a little homophobic drunk after one of these performances by João follows, and João goes out and shoots the little bigot in the street. His arraignment for this murder frames the movie, but the narrative of his later years follows as a coda, with a voiceover during a highly abstracted set of red hued images of João dancing a kind of Samba tarantella in his spectacular long satanic Carnaval costume. The closing `elenco' (credits) with brilliant carnival music is almost more spectacular than João's triumphant Josephine-Bakeresque performances in the bar had been. One leaves the theater with a curious feeling of exhilaration. This is a movie that really builds and builds. The overriding notion it fosters is one of diamonds in the mud, beautiful tropical flowers that blossom in a swamp. Perversion and exoticism here seem not limp and flaccid but brave and vibrant.

There's an energy in this first film by Karim Ainouz that gives promise of an inextinguishable life force that's only begun to be set loose on the screen. Lázaro Ramos, as João Francisco dos Santos, embodies his part completely. Exactly why some writers have found this movie incoherent is hard to see. Perhaps they weren't properly tuned in. And it seems that some Brazilian viewers were put off. Well, the material is unconventional and bold. The sketches are impressionistic; the darkness leaves much to the imagination. But incoherent Madame Satã never is. Within the logic of talent and exclusion and bold desperation it all makes perfect sense, and the progression of a wild gay life is as clear as the many lives sketched so brilliantly in Kátia Lund and Fernando Meirelles' Cidade de Deus. 2002 was a splendid year for movies in Rio purely on the strength of these two.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

I really enjoyed the movie

Author: Harry Mertens (harrymertens) from Netherlands
22 October 2005

As a Dutchman it is hard to judge the historical content of the film. What I've seen was very interesting. Considering the fact it is made after a true story it makes it even more special. The film covers many aspects of life in Brazil in the thirties. Although it is often shown in broad lines it's convinces me. It made me think of the class struggle in my own country. In Dutch you say: als je voor een dubbeltje geboren bent wordt je nooit een kwartje (when you are born as a nickel you'll never become a quarter. In a way it is an optimistic movie. Despite of all the setbacks and jail sentences, the main character does not get broken. Madame Satá becomes a real success winning several prices in carnival parades and other events. I truly admire the actors, especially Lázaro Ramos who plays stunning. The camera-work is great. The special effects are modest and well done. The music in the film is beautiful. I really enjoyed this movie. This movie deserves a wide audience.

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5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

striking, colorful and brooding

Author: leandros from Istanbul
10 March 2004

Madame Sata is one of the most colorful, agitating, controversial, shifting, restless, erratic films you could ever watch on silver screen. The protagonist is also the antagonist with his often irrational and aggressive behaviour, possibly a trademark of Joao Francisco himself on which the film is based on, although this could be one of the film's flaws. The characters are as lively and colorful as he is and the acting is quite well, too.

An activist and a pioneer in many ways in the Brasil of 1930's, he could be seen as a gay activist, a transvestite activist, a swinger activist, a one-man-show pioneer, a strong, willful, self-confident and proud individual who defies almost all possible rules, regulations and conventions of his time, and not because he wants to be standing out.

Although the story line and Francisco's character are quite fanciful and interesting, the dialogues seem to be pretentious, the character build-up insufficient and the editing quite confusing, causing the overall feel to be incomplete and puzzling.

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6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

The Lower Depths

Author: harry-76 from Cleveland, Ohio
6 December 2003

Opinions vary widely about the merits of this impressionistic real-life portrait of a colorful Brazilian 30's and 40's character. And it's easy to see why.

Depicted in a deliberately disjointed narrative, we experience various glimpses of Senor Santos' life, mainly his mid-period, prior to a ten-year prison conviction.

And while there are copious close-ups of the hot-tempered antihero and associates, we're not given much in the way of either a source of his rage or a greater context of his character development.

We're left to assume he's a complex personality, bitter about his lack of material goods, social standing, and education. But it's only a guess, for he or no one else really expresses cause--so we're left only with effect.

However, we're rewarded by a mesmerizing lead performance and strong work by the entire cast.

Presented as one of the jewels of film series in the northeast, called the Cinematheque, located in Cleveland, Ohio, attendees continue to be blessed by rare opportunities to view the best in international cinema.

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