Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2018 3:43 pm 
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MARCO DUTRA, JULIANA ROJAS: GOOD MANNERS/AS BOAS MANEIRAS (2017) - NEW DIRECTORS/NEW FILMS

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Lesbian love and lycanthropic childbirth in São Paulo

Well, this is a humdinger, and on top of being a lesbian vampire-werewolf movie with social overtones, eye-candy Brazilian mise-en-scene and São Paulo locations, it wants to be a musical, and probably would make a darn good full-fledged one, given half a chance.

The movie, arguably a little long, is in two self-sufficient parts, before and after the childbirth, which is the first big scene-stealing special effects display, to be followed by plenty more.

The story initially explores the unexpectedly intimate relationship across race and class that develops between the rich white pregnant socialite from the country Ana (Marjorie Estiano), whose unplanned pregnancy and refusal to lose it has exiled her from her family in a spacious (and festively decorated) condo in the center of São Paulo, and Clara (Isabél Zuaa) the handsome, cropped-haired black woman, trained as a nurse, but with an uncertain past, whom she hires as a nanny and housemaid. As the two women grow closer, their rapport turns first affectionate and intimate, then sexual, then more fraught and complicated, and in the end shockingly macabre.

It's hard to know where to begin, and this movie, blending art house and genre features in a very sui generis manner, is too good to want to spoil it by revealing many details. The first thing that charms, aside from the two attractive ladies and their somehow inevitable sympathy, is how great things look. Ana's condo is decorated in an understatedly fantastic manner. Outside, the big modern buildings of São Paulo glow deliciously. Then there is the glow of the night skies, and the great big moons. Dutra and Rojas are not into drabness. Everything is a visual delight.

I don't think we've ever gotten sympathetically close to a young boy who's a werewolf before, so you get concerned about him. This no doubt is why Neil Young, of Hollywood Reporter,* writing from Locarno, said this movie's "most obvious antecedent" is "Tomas Alfredson's 2008 Swedish kiddie-vampire smash Let the Right One In." As Joel, Miguel Lobo is a sweet, delicate kid, whose fur pelt that time of the month seems an embarrassment. There is another key support character in Clara's harmonium playing, singing landlady Dona Amélia (Cida Moreira). Everything here seems unique and inevitable, including the dedicated songs, some of them duets. You kind of want to see this again - soon - and with friends.

Young thinks this needed to be trimmed truly to compete with Alfredson's film. And Good Manners indeed has structural complications, maybe irreparable ones. But it doesn't matter. It's still original and a delight.

Good Manners/As Boas Maneiras, 135 mins., debuted at Locarno, and was included in an unusually large number of festivals - over forty. Screened for this review as part of the MoMA-Film Society of Lincoln Center 2018 New Directors/New Films series, It is a Distrib Films US release.

ND/NF showtimes:
Thursday, April 5, 8:30pm [MoMA]
Friday, April 6, 8:45pm [FSLC]

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*Jay Weissberg gives a fuller account of the film in [url="http://variety.com/2017/film/reviews/good-manners-review-1202526631/"]Variety[/url].


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MIGUEL LOBO

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