Based on the true story of Zuzu Angel, a famous Brazilian fashion designer in the 70's, who searches for her son Stuart, a member of a leftist university group who suddenly disappears ... See full summary »
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During the period of 1964 to 1985, Brazil lived a military dictatorship. In the 60s, the Dominican friars Tito, Betto, Fernando and Ivo help leftist organizations. However, they are ... See full summary »
Based on the true story of Zuzu Angel, a famous Brazilian fashion designer in the 70's, who searches for her son Stuart, a member of a leftist university group who suddenly disappears during the darkest era of Brazilian military regime and media censorship. Written by
Great subject and lead performance (almost) compensate for Rezende's conservative, unexciting treatment
"Zuzu Angel" covers the last years of the famous Brazilian fashion designer in her doomed quest for justice in the case of her activist son Stuart's arrest, torture, murder and subsequent corpse disposal by the military forces in early 1970s Rio de Janeiro, during the darkest era of Brazilian military regime and media censorship. Not even the fact that she was a widely known public figure saved her from being killed in a car crash in 1976, in one of the regime's favorite elimination techniques (many other similar "car crashes" still have to be re-investigated).
Director Sérgio Rezende has a coherent oeuvre mainly dedicated to depict iconic figures in Brazilian political history, from congressman/vigilante/killer Tenório Cavalcanti ("O Homem da Capa Preta", 1986), to the persecution and assassination of left-wing urban guerrilla leader Carlos Lamarca by the military regime in the 1970s ("Lamarca", 1994), to the massacre of religious leader Antonio Conselheiro and his 25,000 followers by government troops in 1897 ("Canudos", 1997), and the rise and fall of Brazil's greatest 19th century entrepreneur, Barão de Mauá, who tried to foster Brazilian economical independence, confronting and, of course, ultimately beaten by huge international financial interests ("Mauá: O Imperador e o Rei", 1999). Though in all these films -- as in "Zuzu Angel" -- the subject, the historical moment and the political implications are far more riveting than Rezende's predictable, conservative treatment, they remain nonetheless valid initiatives to bring fictionalized versions of Brazilian history to the average movie audience.
Rezende still struggles with his usual shortcomings: cliché script structure, underdevelopment of characters (all of them, except for Zuzu), uninspired dialog; his camera is too precious and well-behaved (the torture scenes don't have the slightest impact, they're are moody and well-lit instead of horrifying). His direction of actors is loose and underachieved: most of the cast is wasted, miscast or misdirected. Luana Piovani is (as usual) an embarrassment, Elke Maravilha's scene is cringe-worthy, veterans like Othon Bastos, Angela Leal or Angela Vieira are wasted (the exception is Nelson Dantas' great cameo), Daniel de Oliveira (who plays the important part of Zuzu's son Stuart) and Leandra Leal are mechanical and unsatisfactory, while Flávio Bauraqui and Aramis Trindade, as the baddies, are hammy to the point of caricature. Rezende's cinema lacks thrill, risk, boldness, essential qualities in a filmmaker dedicated to such electrifying political themes.
However, "Zuzu Angel" still has considerable assets: first of all the real story of a successful, apolitical middle-class woman who, only through her tragic son's assassination and the disappearance of his corpse, developed political conscience and the strength to fight the autocratic regime, albeit taking self-immolating, strategically naive steps. Patrícia Pillar's performance as Zuzu is a wonder considering how little the script gave her: it's mature, intelligent and carefully conceived, and if it lacks greater contrast and tragic transcendence it's not her fault. Marcos Flaksman's art direction is flawless: the cars, sets, props take you right back to the early 1970s. Pedro Farka's cinematography is too "beautiful" for such a rough theme, but if it fails in thrilling power it succeeds in the "postcard" shots of Rio and Zuzu's fashion creations, meticulously recovered by costume designer Kika Lopes. The closing credit song "Angélica", written shortly after Zuzu's death by her friend Chico Buarque, is hauntingly effective.
"Zuzu Angel" joins other recent Brazilian films ("Que é Isso Companheiro?", "Quase Dois Irmãos", "Cabra Cega", "Ação entre Amigos", "O Olho do Furacão" etc) in the reassessment of the deeply traumatic Brazilian military regime that lasted from 1964 to 1985, with multi-fold consequences through this day. "Zuzu Angel" -- though flawed in many ways -- is a sincere, committed effort by a coherent, honest filmmaker. If it doesn't thrill hearts and minds as it should, it's nonetheless better and more important than the many idiotic romantic comedies and soap-opera rip-offs that galore in contemporary Brazilian film-making.
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