Wednesday, October 20, 2010

City of God

So City of God is a Brazilian film based on a book by someone who grew up in the slums of Cidade de Deus, a section of Rio de Janeiro and left the violence to become a writer. It's a chronicle of the (slightly) organized crime that still affects the area, specifically a period from the late 60s to early 80s. It's at its most simple a stylish and unrelenting crime drama, creatively filmed and resonant thanks to its authenticity. It wasn't actually shot in the location it depicts, but many of the actors actually came from that area and were even involved in the crime they're portrayed as committing. Alice Braga as the unwitting object of the protagonist's affection is the only person to appear that I recall seeing elsewhere, and she disappears partway through the story as it gets dragged deeper and deeper into the growing violence of the city. There's not a whole lot of pedigree here, but it's still a highly engaging watch for its two hours.

So Rocket wants to be a photographer, and interacts with local drug dealers to get pot. A kid from his neighborhood named Li'l Dice is a particularly violent person, and he grows up to take over most of the action in the slums. Eventually he gets into an all-out war with another gang after a conflict with a guy who's merely better with the ladies than he is. You get a feel for the futility and pointlessness of all this violence, and the way it perpetuates itself when even children have nothing better to do than become criminals roaming the streets. Rocket's story is ultimately a successful one, but he's one of the lucky few to escape the cycle of crime where he lives. I thought the film got a bit too one-note and harsh by the end, but for the most part it's a quickly paced and exciting tale with a lot of interesting touches, even if some of them weren't that original, like titles for all the different (and often only tangentially related) segments. I don't want to undersell how much I liked it though - as far as complex, interwoven crime dramas go, this is usually as good as they get.

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