Thursday, 12 November 2009

God Indeed

Yesterday evening, post nap and pre sleepy-sleep time, I took it upon myself to raid the DVD collection sitting in the living room and belonging to my housemate in the hope of finding something entertaining that might kill those couple of awake hours inevitable between bouts of rest. There were a number of titles that elicited a reaction, but ultimately that which won out was the incredible City Of God (or Cidade de Deus to all ye purists.)

It's a film I have seen before (once? Twice? Does it matter?) and remember from the first instant loving. The first Fernando Meirelles film I saw (and can somebody PLEASE tell me how to pronounce his last name - I'm quite sure I've spent the last seven years fucking it up in an almighty fashion) grabbed me by whatever was hanging loose and pulled me rudely. It's an incredible film, truly. I'm not making this up. The IMDb Top 250 ranks it at number 16 (where is the hash key on a British keyboard? It's taken me 9 months to realise I know where it is...), it was nominated for four Oscars (Director, Editing, Cinematography and Adapted Screenplay - why it didn't receive a Foreign Language nomination is baffling) and is one of those films everyone who has seen it seems to truly admire.

It's the story of the slums of Rio de Janeiro, the rise (and fall) of the leader Lil Zé, and the escape of eventual photographer Rocket, apparently based on true events. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what makes this story fantastic. The narrative timeline cuts around as Meirelles and writer Bráulio Mantovani tell different people's stories, all linked by an otherwise linear voiceover from the aforementioned Rocket - it's almost an exercise in stream of consciousness digression - but does not in any way jar or confuse the viewer. It's an expert manner of communicating the story, vastly different to that used by, say, Guillermo Arriaga in 21 Grams, which seems to want to alienate the viewer, and even his Amores Perros, where the three interlinking stories to not actually directly combine. The individual characters and storylines are strong independently, but also when interlinked. The performances (primarily from non-actors or unknown actors) and stunning, considering.

VIsually it is much more than a feast. It's a Heston Blumenthal feast. It's all of Heston Blumenthal's feasts, twice, with all of the hottest people in the wold serving you. Naked. The way the camera zooms quickly on shots; the way it is unafraid to focus on something otherwise not the focus of the shot; the colours and light; the way it neither raises up the slums and the City of God as an alternate paradise, nor degrades it so that pity the residents for its mere physicality (rather you pity them for the goings-on). Everything works. You even start to admire the trigger-happy Lil Zé (like, seriously, trigger-happy. No first person computer combat game can match the trigger-happiness of Lil Zé) for the control he manages to exert.

I don't know how I can even go on praising this film. It is, pure and simple, one of the best films I've ever seen. Even though I don't think I'd seen it in the better part of six years, it was still a film that I would frequently rattle off as very high on my list. Now, I think, it shall be one of the first films that I rattle off, rather than one I tack onto the end.

5 stars. I want to give it 6, but I think that would just make my whole rating system farcical. And I think it's too early on to start doing that to myself.


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