‘Antonio One, Two, Three’

Three different narratives of a single story involving the same named characters. As Antonio, Mauro Suares (Sol Alegria, A Portuguesa) finds himself oscillating between a successful theatre star (#3) to scumbag friend to the lighting designer of the Lisbon fringe theatre (#1) in hiding from his father. Turns out that in spite of his university fees being paid, Antonio has been nowhere near a lecture theatre in almost a year. A star Brazilian theatre director (Daniel Pizamiglio – Arrabalde) in the first narrative is a struggling performance artist to Antonio’s success.

Award-winning short-filmmaker Leonardo Mouramateus, in his feature film debut, loosely reimagines Dostoevsky’s story White Nights. It’s much more playful telling than the average adaptation of the Russian novelist! But lightweight characterisation and storytelling results in a struggle to win over the audience.

Rating: 53%

‘The Heiresses’

Involved in a relationship for more than 30 years, Chela (Ana Brun) suddenly finds herself alone as Chiquita (Margarita Irun) is imprisoned for fraud.

A slow-burn tale of love, loneliness and female sexual desire, The Heiresses is a beautifully nuanced character study as Chela comes to terms with the couple’s dwindling wealth and privilege in Paraguayan society. As crystal cut glassware and 19th century dining tables are sold, so Chela finds herself driving wealthy female neighbours to card games and funerals.

A languid, quietly-spoken Brun, barely off screen for the film’s 98 minute duration, collected the Silver Bear best actress award at the 2018 Berlinale for her debut role. The Heiresses is also the feature film debut of director Marcelo Martinessi. Both pull off their respective roles with experienced aplomb.

Rating: 64%

‘Hard Paint’

hardpaintThe turbulent double-life of a young Brazilian gay man (Shico Menegat) immerses the audience in a beautifully nuanced narrative that is simultaneously haunting, thrilling and erotic.

By day a lost, lonely soul whose sister, in moving to Salvador from Porto Alegre, leaves Pedro alone in their shared apartment. But at night, as NeonBoy, he has developed a unique adult entertainment for paying gay internet trawlers involving luminous paint. A copycat performer leads Pedro to unexpected love.

Deft telling of the story by directors Filipe Matzembacher and Marcio Reolon (Seashore) with several unexpected developments, muted tonality and a claustrophobic sense of place create an intimate character study of a vulnerable gay male and a commentary on wider issues of loneliness, homophobia and love.

Rating: 69%

Screened as part of Melbourne International Film Festival

‘The Second Mother’

TheSecondMotherMost of my (limited) experience of Brazilian film has been restricted to street gangs and violence (Pixote, City of God). So The Second Mother‘s story of Val and her years as a nanny to Fabinho in Sao Paolo whilst her own daughter in brought up by relatives in northern Brazil is something completely different.

It comes with a swag of awards for female writer/director Anna Muylaert (Don’t Call Me Son, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes) and boasts a great central performance from Regina Case (Me, You, Them, Rio I Love You). But, whilst entertaining, The Second Mother is a little too predictable as a feisty Jessica arrives in the city and upsets the unspoken class barriers between employer and employee.

Rating: 59%