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João César Monteiro
João César Monteiro,
Manuela de Freitas
A middle-aged transvestite Tonia (Fernando Santos), who works as a prominent drag-queen diva in a Lisbon club, finds herself losing her professional footing, when a young black artist Jenny (Jenni La Rue) is quickly stealing her limelight. However, this ultimately falls secondary to her more personal issues of a youthful boyfriend Rosario (Alexander David), who is a drug addict, and her previously estranged son Zé Maria (Chandra Malatitch), who deserted the army after killing his lover in a frenzied loss of control. Despite the self-destructive tendencies of both her protégées, Tonia is never dissuaded to drop a lost cause, even though Rosario persistently pawns her belongings and Zé Maria remains overtly contemptuous for his parent.
João Pedro Rodrigues starts off with a bang: two soldiers in full camouflage engage into their carnal desires in the midst of a dense wood. Soon after they venture into a touch of voyeurism, observing a homosexual couple in their house, which in turn seems to trigger an intense rush of self-hate in one of the soldiers, who shoots his lover- comrade in arms. Portrayed with the use of some brave, if not always successfully framed, camera-work, "To Die Like a Man" starts off strongly, suggesting a power of themes to be harnessed. Soon after however focus shifts to Tonia, who in herself is a delight to view, but is pasted onto a jarring disfragmented story, which at times seems more interested in capturing eerie odd shots, then actually telling a story. Jumpy and unfocused the picture gives off a strikingly independent, almost unprofessional, vibe, that at times is shaken off when Rodrigues actually succeeds in capturing a cinema moment.
This is not helped by the often wooden support cast, who at times drops off into pointless banter, or ventures into singing in graveyards or reciting poetry (the only moments when the movie decides to stay still and deliberate with a given scene). Plodding on within its odd self- imposed chaos, characters fail to resonate, despite a solid performance by eye-catching Fernando Santos. The artistry involved does engage or something capture the imagination, but framed withing a fickle story it simply drags the promise away, letting the movie die with a whimper. Obviously a pretty divisive movie many viewers will find the audacity of some experiments profound and help gloss over the weaker spots, but my interest waned after tiresome ongoings and never came back into focus.
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