Stars of Neon Bull

6 03 2017

What a strange, strange movie this is. Neon Bull is set, like the other Brazilian movie I watched recently, Aquarius, in the Northeastern state of Pernambuco. And like that movie it is a meandering, understated story – more a character study than a traditional narrative. It offers a documentary-like slice of life view on an outrageously sexy rodeo worker, his friend (or sister or ex-girlfriend?) played by my new favourite actress, Maeve Jinkings, and her pre-teen daughter.

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The film doesn’t play by the usual rules of independent cinema. Although the story centres around an itinerant group of cowboys and cowgirls in the parched sertao badlands of the Northeast, don’t expect poverty porn. The film downplays the characters’ lack of economic prosperity to show a (generally) happy family (of sorts) striving gently for their own little dreams – with occasional flashes of surrealist imagery.  Maeve Jinkings dances in a strip club in a horse costume and argues with her stroppy daughter while sweet (and very heterosexual) cowboy Juliano Cezarre dreams of becoming a fashion designer. This is interspersed with many scenes of life on the farm, some dreamy interludes and a pretty noteworthy sex scene.

I’m really not sure what to make of Neon Bull. While watching it, I veered towards being bored several times – as well as confused – but afterwards it has lingered in my mind…and  star Juliano Cezarre exudes cinematic pheromones in every scene. He is simply sexy, even eclipsing  Maeve Jinkings, the wonderfully expressive actress I had originally wanted to see, and star of both Aquarius and Neighbouring Sounds (below).

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Here Maeve talks (in Portuguese only) about her role in Neighbouring Sounds:





New world star

6 03 2017

 

Portuguese producer Branko is part Manu Chao, part Diplo. While his former group Buraka Som Sistema took Angola’s kuduro music to the Europe MTV Awards stage, new album Atlas matches glitchy electronic beats with guest artists from Brazil and South Africa, amongst other places, to create a tapestry of modern world sound.

 

 





Art: Rio

2 03 2017

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From the lens of the French Rio-based photographer Elsa Leydier.

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Age of Aquarius

28 02 2017

Kleber Mendonça Filho’s “Neighbouring Sounds” was a strange, understated tale of deeply submerged injustice played out on the sunny streets of an upper-middle class beach-side suburb of Recife.

The same theme and setting is explored again in “Aquarius.” This time though the director’s trademark light touch, so powerful in his last film, underwhelms. It is all so subtly and slowly unwound that I found myself wondering where the story was in endless scenes of Sonia Braga letting her hair down and listening to 1970s Brazilian records in her lovely oceanside apartment. There are also rambling flashbacks and passing mentions of unexplored plot points, metaphors for cancer and gay sons, flutteringly light social commentary and surprising sex scenes. But what there is not is any sense of tension or excitement, or – in the end – meaning.

It did have one powerful and unexpected side effect though. The boyfriend was inspired to go out and buy a vinyl record player!





Johnny Hooker

25 01 2017

Recife’s Johnny Hooker has taken Brazil by storm with his re-imagining of the gender-bending 70s and early 80s rock years. In one interview he called David Bowie the Father, Madonna the Mother and Caetano Veloso the Holy Spirit, his personal trinity, although the glam trappings of Ney Matogrosso and Cazuza are also easy to detect.





Ceu’s sweet summer sangria

10 01 2017





Summer sounds

24 12 2016

I missed the fourth album by Brazilian singer Ceu when it first came out in July, but thanks to a fashion magazine’s ” best of 2016″ list (see below) I discovered it just in time to crown “Tropix” the album of ( my) Summer, with its winning formula – evident in the single above – of glacial bossa nova vocals, electronic tropical rhythms and just enough surprises to keep it out of the pleasant coffee table music that MPB can sometime slump into.