Unique among the great postwar New Waves, Brazil’s Cinema Novo movement didn’t merely utilize its garage band, hyper-indie cinema povera circumstances, it made them a badge of native honor. Eschewing professionalism, narrative logic, and anything suggestive of civilized good taste, the films of figureheads like Glauber Rocha and Nelson Pereira dos Santos were primitive and anarchistic, perfect expressions of post-colonialist fury. Pereira dos Santos’s films, beginning as post-neorealism, became particularly chaotic and Carnaval-abrasive—his biggest international hit, How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman (1971), is a vicious pagan parable on colonial abuses that climaxes with an ordinary act of man-eat-man. BAM’s survey begins with his 1955 groundbreaker Rio 40 Graus, a slum-child melodrama that forms a neat stepping-stone between de Oliveira’s Aniki Bóbó and Buñuel’s Los Olvidados, and the subsequent Waves’ examination of wayward youth. Vidas Secas (1963), in which a migrant family crosses the barren northeastern landscape during the 1940 drought, is a trial by sun-blasted suffering. Emblematic of the later films, The Amulet of Ogum (1974) is a rambunctious musical tribulation from the dregs of the criminal underworld to the top and out again. On the 19th, bring your cachaça—Pereira dos Santos is coming for a Q&A.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 22, 2005