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Christoph M. Ohrt,
Carin C. Tietze,
Three upper-middle class teenagers start a night of partying, including wild sex, rape, drugs, and accidental murder. Fun merges with violence with absurd, tragicomic results. The more they try to cover up their goof ups, the more complicated their lives become. Written by
This is the first film from the Trauma manifesto, the good-humored Brazilian answer to the Dogma 95 movement - a variant in that it highlights the terrible obstacles to young film makers in the third world; thus its Portuguese acronym T.R.A.U.M.A. Other TRAUMA rules include the participation of one previous TRAUMA cast member in each film, and revealing the director's name somewhere in the feature. This, the movement's first release, became an instant hit in Brazil, winning the Audience Award at the São Paulo Film Festival only ten days after its first public showing. See more »
Though I'd heard that "Cama de Gato" was the worst Brazilian movie of the decade, I watched it giving it a chance; after all, first-time director/producer/writer Alexandre Stockler managed to make his debut feature (shot in video) for just US$ 4,000 and -- though it looks even cheaper -- I can't begin to imagine all he went through to finally get it exhibited in theaters with no big sponsors or production companies behind it (then as I watched it I realized why). But whatever chances you're ready to give to "Cama de Gato", they shrink to zero within 10 minutes: it's an unbelievably preposterous, verbose, ideologically fanatical and technically catastrophic attempt to portray Brazilian upper-middle class youth as a bunch of spoiled neo-Nazis hooked on bad sex, drugs and violence (and they're made to look like closeted gays too), made with no visible trace of talent, imagination, expertise or notion of structure. Visually and aurally, it recalls the worst amateur stuff you can find on YouTube -- only here it lasts NINETY TWO (count'em) minutes of unrelenting hysteria and clumsiness, and it's not even funny-bad.
We've all seen the story before: bored young guys want to have fun, go partying, take drugs and everything goes wrong -- there's gang-rape, spanking, murder, the accidental death (falling down the staircase!!) of the mother of one of the boys, culminating with the boys deciding to burn the corpses of the girl and the mother in a garbage landfill. Moral and literal garbage, get it? The film is heavily influenced by Larry Clark (especially "Kids" and "Bully"), but Clark's films -- though also moralist and sexploitative -- are high-class masterworks compared to this crap.
I don't think there was ever such monomaniacal drive in a filmmaker to stick his ideas down the audience's throat: Stockler grabs us by the collar and tries to force his non-stop moralist rant into our brains by repetition and exhaustion -- you DO get numb-minded with so much babbling, yelling, inept direction, shaky camera and terrible acting going on. Stockler doesn't care a bit about technique (the quality of the images, framing, sound recording, soundtrack songs, dialog, sets, editing, etc is uniformly appalling), but he's a narcissistic control-freak: he anticipates the criticisms he's bound to get by adding subtitles with smartie/cutie comments, and by making the protagonists comment at one point how far-fetched and phony it all is (I could relate to THAT).
Despite his megalomaniac ambitions, Stockler seems incapable of giving us a minimum of visual or narrative structure -- he can't even decide if he wants gritty realism (hand-held video camera etc) or stylization (repetition of scenes, use of alternate takes, etc). Damn, he can't even decide WHERE to put his camera (there's use of subjective camera for the THREE leads)! The dialog features some of the most stupefyingly banal verbosity ever; the plot exists simply to justify the director's profound hatred for his characters and what they stand for. All you see is a filmmaker being hateful, preachy, condemning, moralizing without the benefit of a minimum of talent (or technique) to go with it.
It's very disappointing to find Caio Blat in this mess. Certainly one of the most promising young film actors in Brazil, with his sleepy-eyed puppy dog looks and emotional edge that often recall Sal Mineo's, Blat can be highly effective under good direction (as in "Carandiru", "Lavoura Arcaica", "Proibido Proibir"). Here, he's told to go over the top and he has to play with some of the most embarrassingly under-equipped "actors" in recent memory. He also enters the risky realm of graphic sexploitation scenes (so goddawful they look rather like web-cam porn).
The film opens and ends with real interviews with "typical" (?) middle-class youth -- Stockler wants us to take those interviews as "proof" of what he's trying to preach in fiction. But he blatantly despises and makes fun of his interviewees, selecting a highlight of abject, racist, sexist, stupid statements (which only shows assholes exist everywhere). Stockler wants to prove that Brazilian middle-class youths are ALL present or future fascists BECAUSE they're middle-class and enjoy recreational drugs (is he saying all neo-fascists are on drugs?? Or that drugs potentialize fascist behavior?? I couldn't tell).
With its dogmatic self-righteousness, headache-inducing technique and mind-bending boredom, "Cama de Gato" is bad for a 1,000 reasons but, above all, it's harmful in a very insidious manner: it gives detractors of Brazilian cinema a powerful case of argument. "Cama de Gato" is best unwatched, unmentioned, buried and forgotten.
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