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|Index||21 reviews in total|
Reading the IMDb comments from non-Brazilian reviewers, I get the
impression "Cidade Baixa" has been mismarketed internationally -- it's
far from the ambition, impact, range or scope of "City of God" or
"Central Station". It's rather a modest chamber movie about a love
triangle setting apart lifelong friends Deco (the incredibly overrated
Lázaro Ramos, here in a one-note-so-minimalist-it's-really-lifeless
performance) and Naldinho (intense, charismatic Wagner Moura) over the
sexual attention and ultimately the "true" love of stripper Karinna
(newcomer Alice Braga, sexy, lovely, inexperienced and unconvincing).
Director Sérgio Machado's only previous solo feature effort was "Onde a Terra Acaba", a well-researched documentary on Brazilian legendary filmmaker Mário Peixoto and his single finished film, the 1931 classic "Limite". Like many directors who cross the bridge from documentaries to fiction, Machado here is completely taken over by "the magic of acting". While Machado's undisguised fascination with his three lead stars is overwhelming, the characters in "Cidade Baixa" lack real essence -- the emotional outbursts are there, but the motivations are never clear. The great performance and best designed character comes from veteran José Dumont: he creates a multi-layered, throbbing character in five minutes and has more truth and energy than the three stars combined.
The plot is painfully predictable, it has been told before (and better) countless times. The film's ultimate point -- that a threesome is as good an arrangement as any -- is only shyly hinted at, and probably won't come across for many viewers, but the sexual tension is tangible the whole time. The film is professionally accomplished, but I'm not sure the director's choice for claustrophobic settings and overuse of close-up shots is helpful to the story-- indeed it's a shame that we hardly get to see the open spaces and the entrancing population of Cidade Baixa (the lower part of the city of Salvador, capital of Bahia), which, after all, is the title of the movie! If you blink, you'll miss the falling-to-pieces but still impressive colonial architecture, and you may not see the low-life poverty and fight-for-life vibrancy typical of that neighborhood, because the camera only has eyes for the three stars. Even the Lacerda elevator (the architectural landmark that divides the Lower from Upper City) is seen but for a few seconds. And, for those of us who know and love Salvador for its magical spiritual and carnal energy, the life-affirming music, the irrepressible live-and-let-live savoir-vivre, it's really hard to believe how grim, bleak and sullen all these characters are.
Anyway, the film is never boring, has some good scenes and it's thankfully unpretentious, but the loose ending can be a letdown for many viewers. Maybe next time the talented but still unimposing Sérgio Machado will find a finer balance to his elements, adding a thicker, less tired plot and widening his framings to fully explore his locations, all of which deserves his attention as much as his cast.
This is a mesmeric movie about the corrosive effect of an attractive
and sensual woman's intrusion on the close, almost intimate,
relationship between two men. Set in the seamy underworld of the
Brazilian port of Salvador de Bahia, the film takes its name from the
lower (baixa) quarter of that city. One of the few "touristy" shots in
the movie is of the lift connecting the Cidade Baixa with the Cidade
Alta, a treasure house of colonial architecture, of which we catch but
one brief glimpse in the film.
To my mind the film is as notable for what it doesn't state explicitly, as for what it does. Neither of the two male protagonists refers to the fact that they are of different colours; but it is hard to avoid the thought that this plays a part in the rift which develops between them, and is foreshadowed by the savage cockfight between a black and a white bird in an early scene.
The film is uncompromising - and entirely non-judgemental - in its depiction both of the criminal activities of its men, and of the prostitution of the women. We may not approve of what we are seeing, but "this is how it is" the film tells us. The acting is of the highest standard, with Alice Braga (niece of Sonia) outstandingly sexy; and the fast-paced and close-up camera work glues the viewer to the screen.
In the Northeastern of Brazil, the twenty years old hooker Karinna
(Alice Braga) negotiates a travel to Salvador, Bahia, in the boat of
the friends Deco (Lázaro Ramos) and Naldinho (Wagner Moura), having sex
with them and getting some money in return. Deco first, and Naldinho
later, fall in love for Karinna, who likes both of them, forming a
triangle of love and jeopardizing the friendship of Deco and Naldinho.
"Cidade Baixa" is a real and cruel triangle of love, having the landscape of the red light district in the lower zone of Salvador and the environment of hopeless people that lives in the limit of the marginality of the society, prostituting, robbing, and fighting for surviving. The plot is actually unpredictable, with many possibilities and an open end, having the excellent actor Lázaro Ramos in the lead role, with the also good actor Wagner Moura. But the great surprise is the unknown actress Alice Braga, niece of Sonia Braga, performing a very erotic and hot character and dignifying the name of her aunt. This low budget movie exhales sexual tension and eroticism, and is very pleasant and recommended, showing a deglamorized side of Brazil unknown even for many Brazilians. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "Cidade Baixa" ("Lower City")
Penned as the next City of God/ Amores Perros/ Y Tu Mama Tambien simply
because it is the next good film to come out of South America, is to be
expected. However, Lower City doesn't quite live up to its comparative
brothers but does manage to create a feel of its own. I empathised with
each of the characters and felt they were played brilliantly by the
actors involved. There was a real sense of passion with the
helplessness of the poverty/ crime lifestyle they find themselves in.
One problem with the narrative that I felt was the rather instant impact the female love interest has on this supposed solid friendship. The film doesn't really know what it wants to express: is it an incite into the underbelly of south American society or an erotic platform for the characters and their drama. The pace dips in the middle but the end delivers excitement and resolution.
As a whole, I enjoyed this film but was far from blown away
Cidade Baixa is more of an accomplished film than you might think. The locations and the camera-work are well presented, The acting is very realistic and the main actress is beautiful as well as talented. It may not be City of God or even Central Station but this film is well paced and full of energy. The Cane and Abel style relationship between the two male leads becomes integral to the film's message: should you let a woman get in the way of a friendship. Well quite frankly you shouldn't as love and lust can be destructive as well as invigorating - how this manifests itself in the film is something I won't go into so as not to spoil it for you. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the film and I would recommend anybody to watch it.
I just watched this movie and I absolutely loved it. There was raw real
emotion that kept me glued to screen the entire 98 minutes. There was
never a dull moment. The actors were great and the emotion that they
portrayed was so realistic. I think the director did a great job at
showing us that it is possible for someone to be in love with two
people and it was interesting how there was an equal level of love
between all three members of the triangle.
This film also had some very steamy sex scenes which made me blush a little :) I highly recommend this movie if you are into drama and emotion and turmoil and just high emotions.
Lower City has several problems, the primary being that the story is a
tired retread. We've seen it all before..the financial desperation
causing people to do anything to survive, and an old fashioned love
triangle. Director Sergio Machado brings nothing fresh to these
well-worn story threads. Another complaint is although the film was
shot in Salvador Brazil, we barely see any of the CITY in Lower City.
Most of the film takes place on a boat or within the interiors of
clubs, hotel rooms, and apartments. Another major fault lies in the
fact that there is little to like about the three main characters. The
men practice misogyny, rob, steal, and enjoy watching a good cock fight
in their down time. The woman is a career prostitute. I felt quite
detached from these characters rather early in the film. The ending was
one that most could clearly see coming up Quinta Avenida (Fifth
What DID work was the sexual chemistry between the three leads. The love scenes were passionate and convincing. I only wish the rest of the film had the same energy.
Three complex and damaged characters on a journey together in a
sexually intense film which makes LOWER CITY such an interesting story
to watch unfold. The location of Salvador De Bahia's lower city and the
interior and exterior shots add a background which is perfect for the
love story to take place and you can feel the heat jump off the screen.
The three actors are tremendous in their roles-Lazaro Ramos, Wagner Moura and the gorgeous, breathtaking young actress, Alice Braga. Their sex scenes add to the development of their characters and of course set the film on its course. Alice Braga is a young "Sharon Stone" in the making and her sexuality, intelligence and sense of herself, what is right for her, make each scene she is in an electrifying demonstration of beauty and talent. Braga should go far.
The final scene was a bit of a let down, but then, what else really could have happened to the three caught in a triangle in the slums and heat of LOWER CITY. One hopes for a sequel of this intense story.
The "tart-with-a-heart" theme is slightly overdone in this otherwise touching film about a love triangle, but 'Lower City' is saved by some fine camera work and the sheer chemistry manifest between its participants; you can really believe in the camaraderie, lusts and jealousies of its characters. Stealing the show is Alice Braga, who doesn't even have an exceptionally pretty face, but whose body oozes sexuality in every scene. Add in skilfully chosen music, and perceptive insights into the nature of life in the Brazilian underclass and the dangers of a culture based on machismo, and the result is short, sweet, and unexpectedly strong. It's hard to imagine a version set in England - but the film exploits the Brazilian self-image perfectly, keeping one step ahead of cliché throughout.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's a drama about a love triangle's story of two friends which both
fall in love with a prostitute. DECO (played by Lázaro Ramos) and
NALDINHO (Wagner Moura) are two best friends which live, like brothers,
in a boat. One day they meet KARINNA (Ana Braga) and give her a ride to
Salvador, agreeing in the middle to have sex with her (she's a
prostitute). But what they weren't expecting is that they will both
fall in love with her, and she with them, both. There it starts a
confusing and dangerous love triangle where no one wants to be the
weakest link, but where any one of them has something to lose
This film is interesting because it characterizes some social groups behind this love triangle, portraying them with crudeness but also veracity. I think the main characters are well chosen and the actors too, but even so I think these characters should have had a better development and the acting could have been a little better at parts.
In a film like this I wasn't expecting an open ending, like the one it has. On one hand it's nice, because I appreciate open stories, especially those which make you think about it, and almost "forces" you to create your own alternative ending; but on the other hand I think some explanations should have been given to the viewer. It ends almost in a poetic way, but we get nothing about their choices. It literally ends in the climax, providing us no conclusion at all!
I did appreciate this movie, but, globally, I think it could have been a little better. I score it 6/10.
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