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Bog of Beasts (2006)

Baixio das Bestas (original title)
A man falls in love with a teenage girl, who is exploited by her own grandfather, who sometimes takes her to a gas station to show her naked to whomever pays him some money.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Fernando Teixeira ...
Heitor
...
Cícero
Matheus Nachtergaele ...
Everardo
Dira Paes ...
Bela
...
Ceiça
...
Dora (as Hermylla Guedes)
Conceição Camaroti ...
Dona Margarida
João Ferreira ...
Mestre Mário
...
Maninho
Magdale Alves
China ...
Cilinho
Samuel Vieira ...
Esdras
Zezita Matos
Jones Melo
Mano Fialho
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Storyline

In the countryside of Pernambuco, in a small village nearby a sugarcane plantation and an alcohol plant, the despicable and cheap Heitor abuses of his sixteen year-old granddaughter Auxiliadora, submitting her to slavery and humiliations during the days, and every now and then exposing her naked body to truck drivers in a gas station in the night to raise additional money. The group of potheads leaded by Everardo spends their time in violent orgies with prostitutes, drinking booze and smoking marijuana, and the mean and sadistic Cícero desires the virgin Auxiliadora. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Drama

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Release Date:

11 May 2007 (Brazil)  »

Also Known As:

Bog of Beasts  »

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2.35 : 1
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User Reviews

 
Stylized, Exhibitionist Mondo Cane
2 May 2008 | by (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) – See all my reviews

In a small village in the hinterland of Pernambuco (Northeast Brazil), amoral old scrooge Heitor rants about everything and abuses his virgin (technically, at least) 15 year-old granddaughter Auxiliadora (Mariah Teixeira) in every possible way: when she's finished with her daily slave-like house chores, he takes her to a filthy joint and forces her to expose her naked body for a queue of men who pay the old ogre to feel and grope her young flesh. Among these men is Cícero (Caio Blat), an "agroboy" (a Brazilian expression defining young upper- class playboys, jackass-style, in the rural areas) who, in the lulls between violent orgies, beating prostitutes, running over peasants with his car, treating his mother like dung and indulging himself in large quantities of booze and drugs, finds the time to become obsessed with destroying the old man by raping Auxiliadora.

Polemicist director Cláudio Assis seems to follow his controversial film debut "Mango Yellow" with a regional Brazilian version of "A Clockwork Orange". Determined to elbow his way into Brazilian cinema through shocking power, he drowns in contradictions by portraying (like Kubrick did in what's perhaps his most ideologically repugnant film) appalling moral and sexual violence through stylized, almost glamorized aestheticism. With the expert help of top Brazilian D.P. Walter Carvalho, Assis wants to make sure we acknowledge his talent and technique in every shot: he uses beautifully composed images, complex dolly shots, careful lighting and a soigné color palette mainly of yellows, oranges and greens (very tropical) to show social and moral putrefaction. He wags his self-righteous, accusatory finger at his characters and at the audience: it's a massacre and everyone (except maybe himself) is beyond redemption. In Assis's films, life is rotten, people are filthy scumbags (the innocent ones are also doomed), and Dante's Inferno is a refreshing spa compared to Brazilian Northeast reality.

The film benefits immensely from Fernando Teixeira's scary performance as Heitor, with his wealth of rants in fascinating regional vernacular (which is quite untranslatable), as well as Mariah Teixeira's innocent, benumbed passivity that is somehow quite believable -- child prostitution by the initiative of the children's parents and relatives is a social plague of alarming tradition and proportions in North and Northeast Brazil (q.v. "Anjos do Sol").

Unfortunately, the non-stop exploitation on the screen transcends fiction: the orgy/abuse/rape/violence scenes are some of the most repellent, humiliating and disrespectful manipulations of established professional actors ever perpetrated by a filmmaker -- it's astonishing and revolting to see serious actors like Caio Blat, Dira Paes, Hermila Guedes, Berlin award-winner Marcélia Cartaxo and others disposed of like porn cattle (Mateus Nachtergaele's over-the-top wacko comes as no surprise: we all know by now he's into sado-masochist acting). Assis himself appears in a nauseous cameo, as a client caressing the body of the very young Auxiliadora as she becomes a road-side whore (nope, no salvation for her either).

"Baixio das Bestas" is difficult to dismiss as just an over-the-top, contradictory, sadistic film (which it is) by a manipulative, exhibitionist, attention-starving, talented filmmaker (which he is) -- it does expose the painful raw nerves of a regional social and political putrid tissue that most of us don't know about or don't want to be aware of: the exploitative, abusive, boozing, violent, almost-feudalistic macho culture that still thrives in many parts of rural Brazil. The trouble is that the oeuvre of Cláudio Assis (like Sergio Bianchi and his hopelessly pessimistic films, like "Cronicamente Inviável") feeds on dead-end concepts of Brazil as a putrid nation and of the human being either as an irredeemable, violent, corrupt beast or innocent flesh ready to be exploited and abused -- highly debatable concepts, to say the least, and not everyone's idea of a good, intelligent time at the movies. If our "mondo" is a "mondo cane", its stylization is an ideological contradiction that serves no other purpose than to make the twisted joy of sadists, masochists and depressed pessimists. Chacun son goût, I guess.


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