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Following the cult Brazilian TV series "City of Men" (2002-2005),
Acerola (Douglas Silva) and Laranjinha (Darlan Cunha), two orphaned,
teenage street kids living in Morro da Sinuca (one of Rio's 800+
favelas), are now about to turn eighteen and face the issues of
adulthood. Fatherhood -- in a social milieu where most kids grow up
fatherless -- is the key theme here: Acerola is now a teen dad who has
to take care of his baby boy when his teen wife moves to São Paulo to
work as a babysitter; and Laranjinha is on the search of the identity
of his unknown father, only to discover he's alive and is an ex-convict
on parole. On the background, the violent, destitute, lawless,
drug-gang controlled life in Rio's favelas.
A sort of mix of Fernando Meirelles' (co-producer here) "City of God" in visual style and "Oliver Twist" in spirit, one of the major problems of "City of Men" is its contrived plot solutions: we have to deal with Acerola's impossibly fast finding of Laranjinha's father whereabouts. And Acerola's grandmother ending up homeless and abandoned by her family (in the film's phoniest solution). And trafficker Nefasto suddenly changing sides in the gang war; and Acerola's one-chance-in-a-million spotting trafficker Fiel still alive, and the phony solution linking Acerola's and Laranjinha's fathers in the past, etc.
Director Paulo Morelli -- who made the practically unseen "Preço da Paz" and the insipid "Viva Voz", and directed some episodes of the "City of Men" TV series -- comes from the publicity world, and it certainly shows. His images are (too) soigné: the black bodies have a golden shine, with pearly sweat drops and blazingly white teeth. He adopts cinéma-vérité style (in the camera-work, dialog, performances), now de rigueur in films dealing with "stark realities". Oscar-nominated editor Daniel Rezende ("City of God", "Motorcycle Diaries") tries to keep things moving fast so we don't have time to think about plot holes and contrivances. Antonio Pinto's music is beautiful but inexplicably old-fashioned for a movie about teenagers. On a positive note, the sound design and effects are superb.
The cast -- most of them from the TV series -- is asked to do more of the same. Douglas Silva (Acerola) relies on his intuitive acting and his big, expressive fish face. Jonathan Haagensen (as drug lord Madrugadão) again acts with his pout and bare torso in his usual laid back bad-boy style, looking suitably stoned. Babu Santana does his usual scenery-chewing in a bit as a trafficker. Camila Monteiro, Luciano Vidigal (a sensitive actor with an impossible part) and others repeat their TV roles. Eduardo BR as Nefasto suggests a blooming talent; Rodrigo dos Santos as Laranjinha's father has a great movie face, and first-timers Pedro Henrique (Caju) and Naíma Silva (Camila) are sensitively directed. The best is Darlan Cunha as Laranjinha: no-nonsense, nonplussed, witty and resourceful, his deadpan acting is the essence of the "carioca cool".
But there's something bothersome about "Cidade dos Homens": it's hard to concentrate on Acerola's sex troubles or Laranjinha's unlikely instant attachment to his shady father (are Rio's street kids really this naive?) when characters like Caju (the dim-witted, glamor-seeking teenager who joins the drug gang) or those really original characters -- the teenage girls that have "upgraded" from "gangsta molls" to becoming gangstas themselves -- screamed for attention and development. The fact is it's weird to take "City of Men" for its face value, i.e. a buddy-buddy movie with the favela drug war on the background, though we all know ordinary life somehow always goes on even in the most violent, crude realities.
By focusing on the personal problems of Acerola and Laranjinha, director Morelli and writer Elena Soárez ("House of Sand", "Eu Tu Eles", lending a sensitive touch to what could have been a stolid buddy movie) choose to concentrate on plot and characters, using a lot of big close-ups of the kids' faces so we won't be distracted by the hellish favela background -- and yet the "background" jumps right on our laps. Poverty, segregation, racism, drugs, guns and violence, the absence of schools, hospitals, formal employment or government assistance, the dire conditions of life in the favelas that affect over one million people in Rio are, in fact, the cause of most of Acerola and Laranjinha's "personal" problems. Maybe one day we'll all be desensitized enough to take that sort of background as routine scenery, but not right yet.
"City of Men" has a major asset, anyhow: the final scene is lyrical, ingenious and filled with humor -- it's a great finale for the successful series that dared put on Brazilian TV favela teenagers as protagonists, teenagers who usually just show up in movies and TV (and, many times, and tragically, in real life) as traffickers, junkies, thieves or corpses.
I just saw it and despite of the rough theme is a sensitive and emotive movie, very different from City of God. City of God was frenetic, full of effects, City of Men is more traditional and the narrative is more conventional. The traffic and the violence is in the background, the theme here is the paternity. Acting is first class, music is melodious and integrate to the scenes, photograph is similar to City of God. Above the summary: Laranjinha and Acerola are preparing themselves to adult life! At the age of 18, each boy has his own problems: Child, women, family, job, forgotten wishes and dreams are some of this adventure's spices, which, to add another pinch of thrill, tells about a war on the hill that will expel the young adults from their community. Will be definite all those changes?
The film City of Men is a fantastic Brazilian film. It's directed by the same creator of City of God and the City of Men TV series. Now, personally, I recommend you watch the TV series before watching the movie due to many flashbacks throughout the film. The TV series also adds more depth to the characters that add to the overall enjoyment of the film. The film is still set in the favelas in Rio, but instead of focusing on the gangs as in City of God, it focuses on two 18 year old boys. The film is similar to City of God, but with a more light-hearted feel to it. The film also has similar cinematography. Overall, I prefer City of God to this film, but it is a worthy follow up to a fantastic film. 9 stars out of 10 in relation to City of God, but as a film in general, compared to the majority of films created this would deserve 10 stars.
It has been estimated that 19 percent of the population of Rio de
Janeiro live in favelas, shanties crowded onto hillsides not far from
luxurious apartments and world famous beach resorts. Notorious breeding
grounds for poverty, drug addiction, and gang warfare, the favelas with
their picturesque street names such as Dead End Hill, have been the
subject of critically acclaimed films such as Hector Babenco's Pixote
and Fernando Meirelles' City of God. Based on a long running television
series that ran on Brazilian TV Globo for four years and was watched by
35 million viewers, Paolo Morelli's City of Men is a follow-up to the
more flashy Meirelles film. While it lacks the earlier work's kinetic
energy, it is more emotionally satisfying and has characters that we
The film focuses on two friends, both turning 18 and without fathers. The two boys, Acerola and Laranjinha, (given Americanized names Ace and Wallace in the subtitles) have unresolved father issues. Wallace is trying to locate the father he never knew and Ace wants to find out how and why his father was killed. Actors Douglas Silva and Darlan Cunha both appeared in the TV series and footage from the TV series is used for flashbacks in the film, shown in a faded color palette. Both are natural actors who do a remarkable job. Ace, though only 18, lives with his wife Cris (Camilla Monteiro) in one of the shanties and is the father of a young boy named Clayton (Vinicius Oliveira). Ace is immature enough to leave Clayton alone on the beach in an early sequence but must grow up quickly and assume complete responsibility for Clayton's care when Cris takes a job in Sao Paolo.
Shot by cinematographer Adriano Goldman who provides sweeping panoramas of the hills, mountains, and beaches, the film begins on the top of Dead End Hill on a day so brutally hot I could feel the sweat gathering on my forehead. Gang members with handguns and automatic weapons led by Midnight (Jonathan Haagensen) decide to head down to the ocean, establishing a perimeter of guards who tell the cops that they are on route. The emotional center of the film is the relationship between Wallace and his newly discovered father Heraldo played with strength and dignity by Rodrigo Dos Santos. Heraldo is out on parole after having served fifteen years of a twenty year sentence for robbery and murder. The circumstances of the murder that he committed becomes a central issue in the relationship between Ace and Wallace and secrets about both of their fathers' pasts threaten their friendship and lead to their involvement on different sides of a new eruption of gang violence.
Somewhat melodramatic but never manipulative or false, City of Men transcends the familiar format of hand-held camera hyperactivity and gangster clichés to become a tender and deeply affecting story about abandoned children and how the cycle is repeated from one generation to the next. While the film explodes into warfare between rival gangs led by Midnight and Fasto (Eduardo BR), it is devoid of typical heavily stylized and frenetic violence. Ace and Wallace are characters we get to know and identify with. We want them to defy the odds and survive until adulthood though the tragic history of life in the Rio slums is never far from our mind.
In the slum in Morro da Sinuca, a couple of days before turning
eighteen year-old, Laranjinha (Darlan Cunha) tells his best friend and
also orphan Acerola (Douglas Silva) that he misses his unknown father.
Acerola decides to help his needy friend to find his father and they
discover that he is in prison convicted for killing a man during a
robbery and near to be released on parole. Meanwhile, Acerola's wife
and babysitter Cris (Camila Monteiro) is invited to work in São Paulo
and she sees the chance to raise money to buy a house of her own; she
tells Acerola that he must take care of their son Clayton alone for one
year. When the owner of the hill and Laranjinha's cousin Madrugadão
(Jonathan Haagensen) is betrayed by his right-hand Nefasto (Eduardo
BR), he is expelled from the slum and Laranjinha and Acerola have also
to leave the hill. While Madrugadão plots a plan to invade and recover
the hill with the support of the gang of the drug lord from Morro do
Careca, Acerola and Laranjinha unravel the past of their fathers.
"Cidade dos Homens" follows the success of "Cidade de Deus" showing the life in one of the slums of Rio de Janeiro through the personal drama of the two lead teenagers, having as background the war between the rival gangs. The story is very realistic and the cast is amazingly natural in their performances, therefore the work of the writers and the director Paulo Morelli are awesome. The cinematography is also top-notch, with landscapes from the hill and well-choreographed and impressive action scenes in the slum. The producers certainly have an agreement with the real drug lords and owner of the hill to shoot this great movie. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "Cidade dos Homens" ("City of the Men")
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In this feature film adaptation of the Brazilian TV-Series City of Men,
story is taking us to the early beginnings of the gangs of Rio De
Janeiro in City of God. However, gangs are no more underdogs. They
erect a reign of anarchy only because they don't have nothing else to
do, and because they feel good when they commit anarchy. Their families
are torn apart, schools are on strike, communities are swept by crime.
Gangs are rebels without a cause, anyhow.
Since these people are ignorant, they are fooled and taken in easily to crime. As the story progresses through an 18-year-old kid's look of life, he is seeking his father who has left home when he's born. Then he finds out that his father was a criminal and currently is a fugitive. Even though the kid still chose his father's side and got against his dearest friend.
The plot is in the hands of an adapted screenplay which is inadequate to bear it. There is a terminated friendship between two old mucker, and one is shot by the other. Also in order to possess a hill which has a good scenic sea view, two friends get against each other just to have more injunctive power and authority over the same community of their own. Here the screenplay should have been effective, but it's not. So we fall into clatters of people defending their thoughts. We never find out the truth which side is right, which side is not; and there is no clarity. Both sides cannot be right at the same time, and if both sides are wrong then the story is self-defeating, and thus the story-teller is wrong, and if the story-teller is wrong, then we are mistaken to watch this complete nonsense.
There is a dead end story you're running into. Leaders of the two enemy gangs are getting killed, at the end. Revenges are turned into vendettas. While a little dispute became a war, in the middle of the war, our leading role heroes are escaping out of it, with an infant boy.
Once he has already seen the grim face of the war, Baby Clayton will never stop crying.
Director Fernando Meirelles' Brazilian gang warfare epic "City of God" made its mark in cinematic history as the premier film on depicting the horrors of drug trafficking & gang violence in Rio, Brazil's favelas. So why not a "city pass" on a sequel? A few years after the "City of God" fame, Meirelles and other collaborators including Director Paulo Morelli decided to produce a Brazilian TV episodic series entitled "City of Men" on the same premise. They casted young Brazilian actors Douglas Silva and Darlan Cunha as two charismatic best friends living their lives in spite of all the gang warfare that surrounds them in Rio's favelas. The series was a success, and the time to hit the silver screen came calling to the story of "City of Men". Even though "City of Men" does not involve the same characters of "City of God", it still does incorporate the same themes of it predecessor including: friendship, loyalty, drugs, poverty, violence, and survival. However, the overlying theme of "City of God" was drug trafficking with all the aforementioned as background themes. While the forefront of "City of Men" is the young protagonists' quest to find their unknown fathers with all the aforementioned also incorporated as background themes. "City of Men" does not excel in masterful storytelling and character development as "City of God" but it does hit the mark on the survival fortitude of its main protagonists. Meirelles only served as producer this time around and wisely transplanted the talents of Director Morelli and stars Silva & Cunha to the big screen adaptation. All of them hit the mark with their efforts. Even though many of the themes are terrifying and at sporadic times disturbing to look at, "City of Men" continues to keep it rio on the realities of a drug & gang induced life in Rio's favelas. **** Good
"City of Men" is a companion piece to Fernando Meirelles' 2002 film
"City of God," but it's a much different animal from the earlier film.
Both are set in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, and both are about young
men fashioning lives for themselves out of the only resources available
to them. But whereas "City of God" was kinetic, angry and immediate,
"City of Men" is more reflective and conventional, and it comes to a
much more hopeful conclusion than the earlier film.
"City of Men" is by far the weaker of the two. The carefully crafted screenplay was full of the heavy themes and plot twists of a Shakesperean tragedy, but I found myself missing the unscripted, documentary-like feel of Meirelles' film. "City of Men" is about the absence of fathers, and about two friends who find themselves fighting on opposite sides because of deeds committed by their own dads -- sons literally inheriting the sins of their fathers. But the script is too often heavy handed, and the director, Paulo Morelli, chooses to communicate too much about the lives of these people through blunt exposition. We don't learn about them from what the actors playing them do or how they act, but rather through the lines they read, and we're almost always aware that they're reading lines.
Nevertheless, the acting is strong enough that I found myself caring for the two leads and fairly engrossed in how their stories turned out. Morelli isn't as accomplished a director as Meirelles, but the film is still well directed on its own more modest terms. If I didn't already have "City of God" to compare it to, I might have liked it even more.
This sepia-sunbleached feature derives from, and features the same main
characters as, the eponymous 2002-2005 Brazilian TV series about
(mostly) boys in the "favela" hill ghettos above Rio for which Morelli
did some of the writing and directing. The series, starring Darlan
Cunha as Laranjinha (Wallace) and Douglas Silva as Acerola (Ace)
--growing up from year to year and episode to episode--sort of grew out
of the Fernando Meirelles/Kátia Lund film, 'City of God,' which in turn
was based on Paulo Lins' tumultuous and partly autobiographical novel
about three decades in the slums and the involvement of youth as
dealers, assassins, and victims. Actually the Ace/Wallace characters as
young teenagers, always played by Silva and Cunha, predate 'City of
God' by two years; they appeared in a short film called 'Palace II' in
2000. The history of these films and stories is as intricate as the
world they depict. Douglas Silva was the prepubescent tough in 'City of
God' known by he moniker Dadinho--Lil' Dice.
'City of Men' is warmer and more intimate than the original film. 'City of God' has been both admired for its virtuosity--it's full of tours de force of visual violence and equally brilliant feats of rapid storytelling--and condemned as reveling too much in blood and gore, making teenage killers who terrorize neighborhoods into little glamor boys. That's quite true. It's unfortunately also true that in the ghettos of Rio as of other places such as the USA, young gun-toting drug dealers are the sexy local pop stars. Maybe the earlier film fails to take a sufficiently clear moral stand, or too much reflects the viewpoints of the young favela males it depicts. Nonetheless it's exhilarating film-making. Paradoxically, it also has a more positive arc than 'City of Men,' because its hero works his way out of the slums and into mainstream Rio de Janeiro to become a photojournalist. In 'City of Men,' nothing like that happens. Instead, there is a difficult reconciliation between the two boys, on the brink of eighteen, despite a stunning revelation about their lost fathers, and one of the fathers comes back into the picture and, reluctantly at first, chooses to be a warm presence in the life of his son. Both of the boys endure moments of terrible loneliness and isolation, which reveal how isolating the world of shifting and dangerous loyalties and hills fought for and lost is for a boy who in the first place lacks parents. But the focus is on the reconciliations.
In the TV series, the boys are in school. They face difficulties even showing up, and only one of them, Ace (Silva) really hits the books (he's also fascinated by guns of all kinds). Laranjinha is closer to turning into a young hood.
Thugh the new movie 'City of Men' is less specific than the TV series (judging by the DVD collections of episodes that I've seen) and suffers a bit by comparison with either it or 'City of God,' the vibrancy of the life on offer in all these films is still unmistakable, as well as the attractiveness of the young actors, the warmth of the world evoked--and vernacular swiftness that of the filming and editing, which somehow is both relaxing and unnerving.
Wallace/Laranjinha is trying to find out who his real father is; he doesn't want "unknown" to be on the place for "father" on his papers. Acerola knows his father is dead, and he wants to know what happened. He's faced with the local problem from the other side. His wife Cris (Camila Monteiro) keeps leaving their toddler son Clayton (Vinicius Oliveira) with him to take care of. He doesn't want to accept the responsibility. But if he reneges on it, he'll leave Clayton in the same place he and Wallace are in. Ace abandons Clayton on the beach early on when Madrugadão (Midnight, Jonathan Haagensen), the gang leader of the hill where they live, risks assassination to descend on a super-hot day for a swim in the ocean. He also turns some flashy cartwheels and shows off his spectacular pecs. Madrugadão, like Wallace (i.e. Darlan Cunha), is handsome and charismatic. Ace is so childish he forgets his own son; but he rushes back and finds him. And when Cris gets a job in the wealthier city of São Paulo, Ace, with great difficulty, forces himself to take on the responsibility of raising Clayton.
Wallace (perhaps a bit too easily) finds his father, a bearded man named Heraldo (Rodrigo dos Santos), who has just gotten out of prison after serving fifteen years of a twenty-year sentence--for murder. Heraldo's beard cannot conceal the fact that he is not very mature. He hasn't shouldered the responsibilities of being a man. But he also carries the weight of suffering and gratitude.
When rival gang leader Fasto (Eduardo "BR" Piranha) takes over Midnight's territory on Dead End Hill, a new gang war breaks out right in the middle of Ace and Wallace's journey of self-discovery.
'City of Men' is a more tender, individual and grownup story than 'City of God'; from what I've seen of the TV series it grows out of, it's less specific and less witty. It works as a kind of antidote to the amorality one feels in 'City of God,' and its warmth is touching. Nor is it visually ineffective, or its sense of the milieu less rich--except. Except that it quite lacks the momentum and adrenaline-rush brilliance of 'City of God's' virtuoso film-making and editing, or the rich range of minor characters the latter has. It is a little bit meandering, and its fast jump-cut slides from scene to scene sometimes seem out of place. As the AV Club reviewer says, much has been gained in this new film, but much has been lost as well. Still 'City of Men' is well worth watching.
"Poverty, to be picturesque, should be rural. Suburban misery is as
hideous as it is pitiable." Anthony Trollope
Whew! I'm out of breath following youth gangs in the favela of Rio as they fight for a city hill as if they were in WWII's Pork Chop battle. Machine guns rule; women do not (contrary to the stereotype of matriarchal Latin society). It may not be City of God, the frenetic precursor using two of the same actors, but it has the Battle of Algiers' claustrophobia, which had a better-appointed Kasbah yet the same feeling of people darting around corners to avoid ever present Death.
The two central characters, teenage boys trying to keep their friendship and families in tact while around them chaos rules, veer between themselves and annihilation as they fight off the temptation to carry weapons like their friends yet can't find a way to survive without guns. There is more, however, than just gang warfare because sub-textually director/writer Paulo Morelli identifies a root cause of the dislocationsabsentee fathers. (Heck, even the current Spiderwick uses this powerful ingredient.) Much of the film is dedicated to one of the boys finding his father and the other coming to terms with the murder of his. While the former is adequately explored, the latter could have used much more explanation for the boy's suddenly joining the gang's war. Could it have been the murder of his father? I can't tell you.
The requisite hillside shots of the Rio harbor help the figurative contrast between the rich Brazilian scenery and the squalor of the barrio. Both conditions, of course, help to emphasize the globally accurate distance between the have's and the have not's, a condition the present economic global downturn is exacerbating. City of Men is a city of all men, racing through the labyrinth of life trying to survive, and losing.
City of God is a movie that contradicts its name; City of Men is spot onGod help us.
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