Saturday, May 28, 2022

Matou a Família e Foi ao Cinema (1969)

... aka: Killed His Family and Went to the Cinema
... aka: Killed the Family and Went to the Movies

Directed by:
Júlio Bressane

A nameless, apparently jobless, thirty-something slacker (Antero de Oliveira) still lives at home with his elderly, miserable parents; Amelia and Horacio (Rodolfo Arena), who likewise just seem to sit around all day not doing much of anything. Well, except argue. There's always time for that, and it's mostly instigated by the joyless father. He complains about dinner, his drink being too warm, his wife wanting to watch a bit of the evening news and pretty much anything else that will give him a reason to be a dick. The monotony of the home, and in living this kind of existence, is captured via really long, lingering, unbroken, static shots (often filmed from doorways) of the son doing various everyday things; lounging around reading newspapers, restlessly tossing and turning in his bed, making goofy faces while repeatedly putting in eye drops and playing around with a straight razor, though I suppose the correct word would be "practicing" with a straight razor. He wants to make sure he gets things right the first time when he finally murders his parents. Afterward, he plans on catching a movie. I'm sure you'd already guessed that from the title, which has attention-grabbing, murder-as-a-perfunctory-act "edgy" vibes written all over it.

After offing his folks and rubbing the bloody razor off on a chair, he runs off to the cinema to catch a screening of Pérdidas de amor ("Lost in Love"). We then are treated to a bunch of fragmented scenes, which try to blur the lines between the movie unspooling in the theater with what's going on in 'real life.' Because several of the lead actors appear to be playing multiple roles here, plus establishing shots to give us an idea of what realm scenes are even taking place in, prepare to be a little confused.

Regina (Renata Sorrah) is planning on accompanying her friend Márcia (Márcia Rodrigues) to the country. Márcia has been having serious issues in her four year marriage to Artur. She feels smothered by him and disconnected to him, has grown bored even being around him, doesn't understand why all of his friends are old enough to be their grandparents and has to zone out whenever he waxes poetic about his favorite subject: guns. Regina, who's resigned herself to societal pressures of early marriage and motherhood, offers a poignant (albeit more than a little depressing!) explanation: "We always think we know our husbands well, but that's not true. When you start living together and seeing each other every day, he slowly becomes a different person. Then this wall is created and you never feel comfortable again. Then a kind of representation begins, in front of friends, in public and alone. You realize it, think it'll go away... but no. Things get worse. And you're gonna have to play that game all your life."

Regina's husband ends up running out on her and she starts spending more and more time with her friend. The two, who were former classmates at a strict Catholic boarding school, form a deep emotional bond and soon find themselves in a sexual relationship. Now inseparable, they start spending most of their time together and the neighbors are gossiping about their relationship. That doesn't sit too well with Regina's mother (Vanda Lacerda), who lays into her daughter and slaps her in the face. However, that doesn't deter Regina and she simply murders her mum after she walks in on them having sex. She and Márcia then go about their business. The two make a suicide pact to jump off a bridge onto train tracks if things get to that point.

However, the ladies' union isn't without its own unique stress points. Regina, the more mature of the two (at least at first), wants a serious relationship while Márcia is still wanting to meet people, travel, have fun and get out of her rut. The two are still able to hold it together due to the simple fact they're both desperate to escape the box that the church, their families and society have pressured them into when they were too young, too naïve and too inexperienced to really know any better. They mock the expected duties and personalities of your typical housewives, engage in random song-and-dance numbers, revert to more child-like behavior (like giggling non-stop and bouncing around on the couch; simply as a means of revolt against things they've always been told not to do), seem to be descending further and further into insanity and, finally, help themselves to Artur's arsenal collection.

The film is at its best when exploring the women's relationship but it's also an "art film" commenting on social and political issues of the day, so expect your usual detours.

The man who killed his parents and went to the movies in the opening scene pops up several more times. He shows up in a blood-spattered room holding a bloody knife and, as the camera spins around the room, we see a dead, bloody woman and children standing around gawking. In another scene, he's being subjected to torture during a police interrogation, where he's stripped down to his underwear, beaten, sliced, poked, burnt with lit cigarettes and sodomized with a steel rod until he dies. He then plays a drunken lout whose wife (also played by Sorrah) has had enough of him. After she threatens to leave him for a man who can financially support the family, he shoots her to death and then turns the gun on his crying infant and shoots it several times as well. The actresses playing Regina and Márcia in Pérdidas de amor also play two mothers / housewives with the same names discussing the film-within-the-film in a park.

Bressane emerged as one of the top names from Brazil's "Cinema Marginal" (underground cinema) and this is considered one of the important titles in that movement as it helped inch Brazilian cinema a little further away from the more formulaic (and highly censored) studio films during a more restrictive era. This certainly features many elements that would have raised a few eyebrows back then, namely the same sex relationship, the murder of a baby and, in stark opposition to the mainstream tendency to whitewash them to be trustworthy, infallible beacons of wisdom and morality, the depiction of parents and various authority figures in a wholly unflattering light. Bressane wisely keeps his film relatively accessible and doesn't completely bury his subtext or wallow too much in arty pretentions, aside from the aforementioned overuse of unnecessary long takes. In a 2015 poll of Brazilian film scholars and critics, this placed #38 on their list of all-time best Brazilian films.

Unfortunately, there's not been any remastered DVD or Blu-ray for this title as of yet. There was a color remake in 1991 from director Neville de Almeida under the same title. Bressane served as a writer and associate producer on that version.

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