Bureaucratic, unimaginative film does no justice do Drummond's revolutionary poetry
"Poeta de Sete Faces" (Poet with Seven Faces/Facets) is a centennial celebration of Brazil's most famous and beloved poet of the 20th century, Carlos Drummond de Andrade (1902-1987). The film consists of interviews with poets and scholars who analyze his work and influence, reenactment of some of his press interviews (Carlos Gregório portrays Drummond with a terribly fake "balding-hairdo" piece and an accountable carioca accent), and on-screen reciting of his poems by famous Brazilian actors.
Drummond was part of the Brazilian Modernist Movement of the 1920s, which declared war on Romantic, Neoclassic and Parnassian art in general (including music, painting, sculpture, literature, etc). The Modernist poets introduced everyday language, asymmetrical form, blank verse, new thematic interests and a marked Brazilian flavor in their work, to a capsizing, revolutionary effect on Brazilian literature. From his Modernist beginnings, Drummond eventually experimented in various styles (hence the movie's title), but always thematically interested in the "ordinary man" and the world around him. Drummond is unanimously considered a master of form, fluency and rich imagery (with a touch of melancholia). Some of his sonnets are simply perfection and he developed a vernacular range that encompassed the popular and the erudite, and a thematic range that went from the metaphysical to daily ordinary stuff -- but always insightful and humane.
In "Poeta...", the whole CV is there (date and place of birth, background, important facts in his life, etc, bureaucratically shown as in any TV-made half-hour special); and some of his most well- known poems too, with rather lackluster reading by the actors in high-school-like staging (best, perhaps is Antonio Calloni; most disappointing, doubtless, is Paulo Autran's smirky, affected delivery of the immensely rich, sad poem "Bom-Dia"). Filmmaker Paulo Thiago's aesthetic choices do no justice to Drummond's revolutionary role in Brazilian poetry, nor does he visually mark differences in Drummond's evolution as a poet. If his early poems can be read aloud and still retain their power, his later work is very multi-layered, better read silently, not recited; the reader must be allowed time to figure out all the complexity of meaning and form. But they could have generated really interesting, experimental imagery in the hands of more imaginative filmmakers, like Júlio Bressane or Jorge Furtado, or with the help of animation, for example.
Anyway, there's no excuse for such lack of imagination, boldness, experimentation. Some may argue this is a respectful, standard tribute to a man who, after all, was himself a bureaucrat (Drummond was a life-long civil servant to make ends meet). The bureaucrat part is all right; it's the POETRY that's missing -- cinematically, rhythmically, creatively. "Poeta de Sete Faces" is so unexciting you end up thinking Paulo Thiago missed the other SIX facets (Drummond's daring, beautiful erotic poems were completely left out perhaps Thiago had a TV special in mind when he made this and played it safe?).
Do watch this if you have a test at school about Drummond and don't have time to look him up properly. Otherwise, trust me: you'd better go to the nearest bookshop and buy one of his Poetic Anthologies (or download them) - if you're a Portuguese speaker, of course. Anyway, any film featuring such sublime poetry can't be all bad.
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