Mathilda, a 12-year-old girl, is reluctantly taken in by Léon, a professional assassin, after her family is murdered. Léon and Mathilda form an unusual relationship, as she becomes his protégée and learns the assassin's trade.
Brazil, 1960s, City of God. The Tender Trio robs motels and gas trucks. Younger kids watch and learn well...too well. 1970s: Li'l Zé has prospered very well and owns the city. He causes violence and fear as he wipes out rival gangs without mercy. His best friend Bené is the only one to keep him on the good side of sanity. Rocket has watched these two gain power for years, and he wants no part of it. Yet he keeps getting swept up in the madness. All he wants to do is take pictures. 1980s: Things are out of control between the last two remaining gangs...will it ever end? Welcome to the City of God. Written by
Jeff Mellinger <firstname.lastname@example.org>
'What are you doing, you're just a kid?' "I steal, I kill, I carry a
gun, how can I be just a kid? I am a man."
Many who visit Brazil the first time, tend to view Brazilians as
lacking serious ambition. They seem to party the night away, and appear
to seldom work. The old joke about Brazilians is that they have
breakfast at 2:00 in the afternoon.
But such a narrow view does not take into account the fact that while
we in America work to live, sweating away for pennies which the
government steals at every turn, they in Brazil Live to Live. It is a
different kind of living, a life that sambas with the vibrance of the
swaying palm and the bounding drum. A life that understands that we are
only on this earth for a cup of cafezinho, and we should have fun while
we can before the end comes, but quick.
But as the City of God also shows us, Brazilian life is often nasty,
brutish and short. A certain degree of anarchy overshadows all the
denizens of the film. But Director Fernando Meirelles takes a situation
lacking definite boundaries and clear authority, and creates a
framework, a structure, that of Gang Rule. The gang-members are not
seasoned, old-time criminals like Fredo Corleone or even Tony Montana.
Instead, they are a bunch of sweet-faced kids. No one is older than 25,
partly because of choice, but mainly because no one lives past this
On the surface, in this context, City of God is a coming of age story
of two young people, a sort of Brazilian "Angels With Dirty Faces.' One
character escapes from the City of God, while the other succumbs to it.
But when one scratches beneath, one finds the film a comment on the
morally bankrupt City of God in Rio De Janeiro, and a mirror on Brazil
itself. Far away from the party hopping, Travel and Leisure postcard
perfect white beaches, is another world, one of marauding bands of
The most surprising thing about City of God is its references to
American films. Most Brazilian films, as the films of all countries do,
owe allegiance to their own particular cultural situation. Brazil owes
a cultural debt to Europe (Portugal, Germany, Italy) and Africa.
However, the United States has a far more distant cultural relationship
to Brazil. That is where City of God triumphs to me an American film
goer. It uses the chapter format made famous in Pulp Fiction and more
recently, Kill Bill. It uses the familial structure present in
Goodfellas. It uses the 'white-suit cool' present in Miami Vice and the
Bacardi and cola ads from the preview before this very movie.
The fact that City of God can be subtitled Grand Theft Auto: Sao Paolo,
is not a surprise nor a mistake. The film is built like a video game in
its use of random acts of violence. But the fluid perfect camera work
and editing give way to a film with enormous contradictions.
Contradictions as large and as vast as the noble country itself.
Stylistically, the camera work does not conform to its premise as a
gangster film. A gangster film never looked this good. It is as if the
camera is released in the wide open beaches, and kicked around like one
of Ronaldinho's headers. It starts on the sand and moves steadily
across. It picks up on the story but then heads into the sun. It then
leaves us, the film-viewer, with the most indelible image in years as
we see Sonia Braga (A world icon and sex symbol of Brazil)'s niece,
sitting on the sun-drenched coast putting her arm around another young
boy. The innocence conveyed in this scene is something to behold. It
literally takes your breath away.
You see the slamming of different, competing themes. You see the
subtlety and tranquility of the beach, smashed into scenes of battered
youths dying on city streets. You see a wealth of hypnotic ambiguous
images pulled together, much like the very Culture of Brazil itself.
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