Rewind: Films of the 60s, 70s, 80s – Bye Bye Brazil (1980)

by RICHARD WINTERS

This movie is a slightly surreal comedy-drama detailing a caravan of five entertainers who travel the Brazilian countryside putting on vaudeville-like shows under a makeshift tent. The film works in a vignette style as it analyzes the many scenarios and difficulties that the group encounters, as well as making a very strong statement about the poverty and hardships endured by the townspeople that they meet. In fact, if there is one lasting impression that the film leaves it is that one.

The story is pretty much character driven and the characters are all by and large highly amoral. They reflect the desperation of their audiences, which they quietly hope someday to rise above, but never do. There are a few fleeting moments where they amazingly and surprisingly decide “to do the right thing,” which end up being the film’s most memorable scenes. Most of the time however they are rough around the edges and the viewer is forced to appreciate them with all their frailties brightly exposed.

Jose Wilker plays Lorde Cigano who is the leader of the group and a lifelong conman. He closely resembles character actor Stuart Margolin, who was famous for playing the character of Angel on the classic ’70s TV series The Rockford Files where he was always trying one amusing scheme after another and the character here works in much the same way. He has a few good lines as well as a funny running gag where he displays obscene toys to attractive women he meets in order to “turn them on.”

Betty Faria plays Salome who does erotic dances during their performances. She lies and cheats as much as Lorde and is more than willing to fall back to being a prostitute whenever the group is in need of money. Although she does have a few nude scenes she is really not all that attractive, or young, as she was already hitting 40 at the time that the film was made. However, her worn looking face does help accentuate the hardened lifestyle of the character. Her best scene is when she is “servicing” one of her clients who is a fat, balding middle-aged man who expounds the entire time they are having sex about the many virtues of his wife.

Fabio Junior plays Cico, the young man who joins the group because he feels it is a chance to escape the sad existence of a peasant farmer only to find that life on the road can be in many ways just as grueling and thankless. Junior is a famous singer in Brazil and his chiseled, boyish good looks didn’t seem to be a realistic fit for the impoverished farm family that his character came from in the movie. He shows no concern for his pregnant wife and spends the entire time trying to seduce Salome, which makes him irritating and unlikable. I did though like the fact that he was the one character who evolved and became introspective at the end.

The character of Cico’s wife Daso, played by Zaira Zambelli, was a bit frustrating. The film makes it clear that she is aware that her husband is fooling around with Salome and she doesn’t seem to care. She also excitedly jumps into becoming a prostitute at her husband’s insistence when the group falls on hard times. I wanted more explanation or history for the character to help understand this, but the story does not supply any.

I was also disappointed with the handling of the Swallow character, who performs feats of strength during their productions as well as acting as the group’s driver. Swallow is mute, but easily the most likable and durable, but he runs away halfway through the picture and never returns. I would have liked the character to have stayed for the duration as he helped give balance to the others, or at the very least be given some detail of his eventual fate.

The film becomes almost a like a Brazilian travelogue as the viewer encounters everything from the small dessert towns to the exotic rain forests. However, the budget was clearly low and I didn’t feel the cinematography captured the majestic essence of the landscape as much as it could have, or as I had expected. The story and situations are not all that unique or creative, but the story stays nicely amiable throughout. The funniest part of the whole film may actually be the lyrics of the song that is sung at the very end during the closing credits. This is not a great movie, but not a bad one either.

My Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

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Last Time on Rewind: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
Coming Up Next: Stay Hungry (1976)

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