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Antônio Martins, respected theatrical critic, is a very rational man. But a chance meeting with young Inês, a nude painting model, is going to rock him. Inês keeps a relationship with painter José Torres Campana, an older man with a deep influence over her. Antônio gets jealous, and the three become characters of a drama saturated with desire and danger.Written by
Experimental film uses rape and physical disability to investigate style, love, sex and art
Antonio Martins (Marco Ricca) is a lonely, bitter, cynical, pedantic theater critic who one day meets by chance a young woman in a bar, Inês (newcomer Lilian Taublib). They talk and flirt and it's a few minutes before he realizes she's disabled (she's had one leg entirely amputated). Despite that -- or because of that -- Antonio feels strongly attracted to her, and is ravaged with jealousy when he finds out she's a nude model for old painter José Torres Campana (real-life painter Felipe Ehrenberg) with whom she has a strong emotional and (probably) sexual rapport. One night, Antonio breaks into her apartment forces her to have sex with him. A legal suit follows with Inês accusing Antonio of rape; he pleads not guilty and accuses the painter of pornography.
This is not a courtroom drama, or sex drama, or romantic drama. In a total change of pace after his tough, socially-aware, talkative thrillers "Os Matadores", "Ação entre Amigos" and "O Invasor", director Beto Brant makes this experimental, fragmented, talkative film that mixes literature, theater, poetry and painting to reflect on the issue of love, style and art: the critic who loves art but is unable to love people; the disabled model who learns self-esteem through the artistic revelation of her Svengali painter; the painter who has learned to fuse love, sex and art as one single, transcendental experiment.
Antonio Martins is a sort of contemporary Gustav von Aschenbach (without the artistic genius; he's "just" a critic): both in "Crime Delicado" and "Death in Venice", an orderly, rational, organized small world is shattered by a life-changing aesthetic encounter, only this time it's not perfect beauty (Tadzio) but physical disability (Inês). But, while beauty transforms Aschenbach, Martins is unbearably shallow from start to finish (it's not actor Marco Ricca's fault, though his portrait IS one-dimensional). It's a monotonous, boring, phony character (would you believe a theater critic who's a celebrity? In the 2000s?? In Brazil?! And actresses are willing to bang him just to get mentioned in his reviews!?? Hmm...NOT!).
Inês is played by real-life disabled newcomer Lilian Taublib. Her nudity, availability and courage are disturbingly fascinating, but she's an awkward non-actress with a bothersome speech impediment. The film only comes alive toward the end, when we finally meet the painter Campana, played by real-life Mexican painter Felipe Ehrenberg. With his worn out, world-weary, rugged good looks, his exquisitely tattooed hand holding a perennial cigarette, we marvel at his skill and abandon as he draws Inês while their nude bodies intertwine in bed, recalling the sensual relationship between painter and model of Rivette's "La Belle Noiseuse"; and then as he fills his canvases with voluptuous, life-celebrating colors and fearless brushes. Ehrenberg's final improvised speech shows the wisdom of an experienced, consummate artist, and we suddenly guess why he only shows up near the end: he just wipes everybody else off the screen, he's the real thing!
Director Brant is clearly more interested in experimenting with style and texture than in the plot itself (check the courtroom anti-climax). He makes a point in denying the trendy, common-place elements of 2000s' cinema: no shaky hand-held camera, no camera movements (I mean NOT ONE! the camera NEVER moves in ANY scene, not even when it's hand- held), no choppy editing, no multiple- song soundtrack. The dialog ranges from literary erudition to bas-fond slang, but the only music on the soundtrack is Schubert's magnificent Andante from his op. 100 trio (extensively used in Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon"). The visual contrast is achieved through multiple textures, from Ehrenberg's explosive colors (his paintings were made especially for the film), to the greenish/yellow bar sequence (directly inspired by Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks"), to the specific wardrobe/color treatment in each of the theatrical plays sequences, to the grainy black-and-white of the courtroom scenes. Brant wants us to pay attention to the different textures (like in painting) rather than movement, story, narrative.
The more "erudite" parts are three long scenes with excerpts of plays with different visions of love: "Confraria Libertina" with its Genet-like fetishizing of sex and power; Gonçalves Dias' "Leonor de Mendonça" with dialog in beautiful classic Portuguese; and Büchner's unfinished "Woyzeck", as adapted by Fernando Bonassi. They are interesting accessories, but enhance the feeling of fragmentation and digression. The long, tiresome sequence in the "Nighthawk" bar -- where Martins becomes aware of his emotional impotence and his lost connection with real life -- features remarkably poor improvised babble: it's probably the film's lowest point, with Cláudio Assis (director of the controversial "Amarelo Manga") very realistic as an insufferable drunkard.
Slow, whimsical, ambitious, irregular, "Crime..." ends with such a beautiful, unsettling, truly memorable scene at the São Paulo Museum of Art that we wish what came before was just as riveting. "Crime Delicado" is a very personal investigation on style, love/sex and art by a director risking new artistic paths -- it's aesthetically challenging, but with definitely limited appeal.
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