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Jogo de Cena

Posted by martinteller on December 26, 2013

Brazilian director Eduardo Coutinha put out a call for women to be interviewed, telling the stories of their lives.  He recorded these interviews… and then recorded actresses repeating them.  The viewer sees these in various permutations.  Sometimes it is the real person and sometimes it is the actress… sometimes you never find out which.  Sometimes you start out knowing, sometimes you find out at the end.  Sometimes the two are cut between each other.  Sometimes you hear a story told by one, and the same story is repeated later in the film by the other.

It is a fascinating concept, a meta-documentary along the lines of Makhmalbaf’s Salaam Cinema or Rouch and Morin’s Chronicle of a Summer.  The structure is constantly surprising you, opening up new questions at every turn.  How can I tell who is telling their true story or someone else’s?  How does it affect me to know beforehand that the speaker is actually telling a history that belongs to someone else?  How does learning that after the fact make me reevaluate what I’ve heard?  Are tears an indication that the speaker is revisiting emotional triggers or that she is getting into character?  Does it cheapen the experience when something is presented as a “documentary” but contains acting?  Is this different for a Brazilian audience, who would undoubtedly recognize some of the actresses (the only one I’d encountered previously was Marília Pêra, from Pixote and Central Station).  It’s a thought-provoking film in many ways, one that plays with storytelling.

Unfortunately, I tended to get so lost in thinking about the concept that the content of the stories often got lost.  It can be difficult enough to watch a film that is entirely talking heads, harder still when it’s done in a way that encourages your brain to get sidetracked.  These women have tales that mean a lot to them… most of them talk about their children, their parents, their hardships and their dreams (one discusses Finding Nemo at length, and the personal connection she feels to it).  But I rarely felt emotionally invested.  Perhaps others will be pulled in deeper to the stories themselves rather than the way they are told.  For me, it was definitely an intriguing concept but on the whole I don’t know if it will stick with me for long.  Rating: Good (75)


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