Documentary on Brazilian poet, playwright, critic, diplomat, composer, singer and lyricist Vinicius de Moraes (1913-1980), internationally famous lyricist of Bossa Nova hits like "Garota de Ipanema" and "Insensatez" and writer of the play which originated the film "Black Orpheus" (1959). Archive images combine with up to date interviews with members of his family, friends, partners (Chico Buarque, Edu Lobo, Carlos Lyra) and also musical numbers with famous Brazilian singers. Written by
A winning, loving, long due homage to great Brazilian poet & lyricist Vinicius de Moraes
Vinicius de Moraes (1913-1980) was Brazil's most popular poet & lyricist of the 20th century: he wrote some of the most memorable Brazilian poems of his time, and the lyrics of dozens of the best Bossa Nova & samba songs including "Garota de Ipanema", "Samba da Bênção", "Canto de Ossanha", "A Felicidade". AND he lived life to the hilt: he was also a playwright, screenwriter, showman, full-fledged diplomat, informal "talent scout" (he put on the map some of the most brilliant Brazilian composers of the last 50 years by simply becoming their partner; he was that prestigious and important). And he found time to get married 9 times (!), have a handful of children and a multitude of friends who adored his great sense of humor and inimitable personality, and who helped him through his periods of depression and very heavy drinking.
Vinicius de Moraes revolutionized 1) Brazilian music with the creation of Bossa Nova in the late 50s (with partner Antonio Carlos Jobim) and the Afro-Sambas in the mid-60s (with partner Baden Powell); 2) Brazilian poetry with his unique talent for blending colloquialism, classicism, lyricism, sensuality and urgent commitment to love and life; 3) Brazilian musical theater with "Orfeu do Carnaval" (later adapted as "Black Orpheus", the Oscar- and Cannes- winning film by Marcel Camus). Now Vinicius finally gets a greatly deserved homage by way of this irresistible documentary, directed by his ex-son-in-law (experienced filmmaker Miguel Faria Jr in the best film of his career) and co-produced by his daughter (filmmaker Susana de Moraes). Trust me: by the end of the 110 minutes, you'll be down on your knees for Vinicius de Moraes, the artist and the man.
The film alternates archive footage of Vinicius (including a side-splitting dialog with Jobim about booze; his participation in Pierre Kast's French documentary "Les Carnets Brésiliens" and excerpts of his concerts); interviews with his partners (great composers Edu Lobo, Toquinho, Carlos Lyra, Chico Buarque), friends (Tonia Carrero, Caetano Veloso, Maria Bethânia, Ferreira Gullar, etc) and family (his witty, funny daughters); on-screen recitation of some of his great poems by actors Camila Morgado and Ricardo Blat (a heart-wrenching highlight is the poem he wrote on his father's death; the ones about passionate love are unequaled in their sensuality and have been used by generations of Brazilian men and women to advance their love lives:)); and musical numbers played live with Brazilian music stars (besides Chico, Caetano, Toquinho, Lyra, Lobo, we have Adriana Calcanhotto, Monica Salmaso, Gilberto Gil, Mart'nália, his granddaughter Mariana de Moraes, etc -- shame on the seminal João Gilberto, now a recluse, who refused to appear in the film). All gels seamlessly, with never a dull moment.
"Vinicius" also has a knockout ending (this is not a spoiler, really). After narrator Caco Ciocler reads Rubem Braga's lyric farewell letter to Vinicius, comes perfect-pitch Monica Salmaso who sublimely sings "Canto Triste" (which HAS to be one of the most perfect and beautiful songs ever written anytime anywhere), and we realize that the sad, longing lyrics by Vinicius about the absence of his loved one now apply as a manifesto on how much HIS death left an eternal void in Brazilian culture. With moist eyes, we then watch Chico Buarque -- who's a serious scene-stealer with his quick wit, infectious smile and blue-eyed charm -- recall a joke Vinicius used to make about his, hmm, sexual "shortcomings". Broad laughter and heartfelt tears mix as we hear Vinicius himself sing his matchless lyrics for "Samba da Bênção" over the final credits.
OK, there are minor letdowns: Blat occasionally gets too theatrical in some of the poems, Morgado destroys some of Vinicius' perfect poetic meters by breathing in the wrong places, and a few of the musical guests are not up to the task (over-dramatic Olívia Byington, bureaucratic Zeca Pagodinho, duck-voiced Renato Braz). But there's so much to compensate that the overall effect is just sweeping. And box-office wise, "Vinicius" has managed QUITE a feat: it scored #2 in the list of all-time B.O. results of Brazilian documentaries, just behind Murilo Salles' "Todos os Corações do Mundo", about Brazil's victory in the 1994 World Cup, but ahead of popular docs about Pelé, Garrincha, Zico, and other soccer gods in this land of soccer worshiping. This tells a lot about the importance and popularity of Vinicius de Moraes among Brazilian people, and it's also a recognition of this film's quality and power of communication.
If there ever was a man who represented a certain Zeitgeist, it was Vinicius de Moraes in the Rio de Janeiro of the 1950s/1960s/1970s; he belonged to that rare breed of artists whose lives are as fascinating and awe-inspiring as their oeuvre. We fall in love all over again with this incredibly generous, talented, funny, full-blooded, witty man who brought out the best in people; in love with his poetry, his music and a Rio that was once beautiful and magical. So thanks Faria Jr and Susana for making my heart warmer, my soul happier and making me kind of proud of having been born in the same country (and city) as this unique man.
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