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Awake In The Dark
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Old January 16th, 2003, 03:03 PM   #1
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City of God - brilliant

THE MYTHICAL STREETS
Cidade de Deus ("City of God")

dir. Fernando Mereilles starring: Matheus Nachtergaele, Seu Jorge, Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino da Hora, Phelipe Haagensen
"City of God" is a brilliant film from Brazil following a group of kids from a slum outside of Rio de Janeiro as violence, mishaps and happenstance take their toll. One boy dreams of becoming a newspaper photographer while others descend into gunhappy petty crime. Having the look of a gritty documentary at once but also brimming with vision, I can't remember the last time I emerged from a cinema so eager to drink from the film's creative source. This film will likely be a favourite for the Best Foreign Film Oscar in March.

Director Fernando Meirelles and cinematographer Cesar Charlone have crafted a film of tremendous verve and authenticity. Spanning three decades, the film tells a series of interlocking stories concentrating on each character; folk tales that are funny, chilling and without judgment.

The some-time narrator of what is a collection of stories is 12-year old Buscape who at the beginning of the film is too scared to engage in petty thievery like the older boys in the favela, including his elder brother. However, others of his age are more than willing to plan greater heists in a bid to escape from poverty, among them a bushy haired nascent psychopath named Little Ze, a character who seems to be constantly followed by a cloud of dread.

During the eras depicted (60s, 70s and 80s) successive waves of youth gangs, each younger and more ruthless than their predecessors, each give rise to notable characters with colourful names and colourful stories behind them. Based upon real events, "City of God" has a documentary feel about it, defining gritty direction, but also told with plenty of style. The cutting and editing is playful, mirroring the action on the screen which is often comic action. It is the Latin American cousin to "Pulp Fiction" but told with the technical sensibility of the video age.

The secret to the success of "City of God" is in the wry flavour of each story. Neither judgmental nor overly farcical, the filmmakers behind this movie depict events much as anyone who might have witnessed them might relate them to friends years or decades after the fact. Even given the grainy nature of the scenes, and even the brutality of the acts, there is humour in the remembrance, where characters are bigger than life-size and the real events become legend. This is the mythos of the streets.

An example of this is in one of the shorter stories called "the story of the apartment". In this five minute interlude (which nevertheless sets the stage for important events to come), an apartment becomes a rough symbol for the cyclical nature of the movie. Tenants, petty drug dealers living a fast and loose existence, take control of the same apartment, one after another. Each supplanting the former tenant and taking over his territory, some lasting longer than the others. No matter who is in charge, the story remains the same.

Even given the sometimes slapstick feel of the stories, "City of God" has a rich literary structure. Each story links to the next, minor characters introduced early in the film become critical elements in the summing up. Younger boys grow up to become villains; patsies become heroes. Like all epics, happenstance and fate collide to provide just desserts. A brilliant, memorable film.

I saw this at the Vancouver Film Festival in September of 2002. It became not only the best foreign film of the year, it was my pick as the best film of 2002.

Opening this week in the U.S. and January 23 in Canada
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Old January 16th, 2003, 06:03 PM   #2
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I'm in, let me know when you want to go see it.
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Old January 16th, 2003, 06:10 PM   #3
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Pretty sure it isn't opening this weekend (in Vancouver) but I'll check the Straight tomorrow.
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Old January 18th, 2003, 10:46 PM   #4
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I read the review in a Vancouver paper yesterday. It does look interesting. Maybe it'll come to the Hollywood, or at Commercial and 6th.
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Old January 20th, 2003, 11:02 AM   #5
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What's the theatre at Commercial and 6th? Are you talking about the VanEast?

How is it?
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Old January 24th, 2003, 04:49 AM   #6
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Well, it's cheap, it's nice, but the sound isn't up to snuff. However, I deal with CCEC Credit Union right next door, they close at 5:00 pm, and shows usually begin at 5:00 pm. So catch a movie there at times. That last movie I say there was the new James Bond flick.

I also go to the Hollywood, on Broadway, and The Ridge, about 10 short blocks up from where I live (I live at 3rd & Yew).
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Old January 24th, 2003, 10:22 AM   #7
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There is an article in the Los Angeles Times's Calendar section this morning (January 24) on "City of God." It's in the World Cinema column. It said the film opened in the U.S. last Friday.

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Old January 24th, 2003, 11:09 AM   #8
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I like almost everything about the Ridge except the seats. Ouch.

I live downtown so ideally I would want to catch everything at Tinseltown (20 minute's walk). However, because they're not one of the chains, occasionally they won't have one of the big movies I want to see and I'll have to trek out to Coquitlam or BBY.
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Old January 24th, 2003, 03:14 PM   #9
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Yeah, my wife and I just went to Tinseltown 2 evenings ago. We had free tickets from the Westender for "Darkness Falls." It was a horror flick, and we knew it was going to be bad, but what the heck, the tickets where free.

I laughed all throughout the movie! So did most of the other people. But my wife keep whispering, "why is everyone laughing?"
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Old January 24th, 2003, 04:54 PM   #10
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Those films are totally dependent upon the crowd. I used to get lots of preview flicks in too and it was like - no one has anything to lose. They didn't pay for it. So it's a party.
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Old January 24th, 2003, 05:21 PM   #11
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I totally second Keith's view of the film, I'm in London and have watched it twice in the cinema already- once during the London Film Festival and another when it was on general release. Absolutely brilliant piece of filmmaking, it came across as very honest and at the same time brutal. Great cinematography and I can't really find anything that I would change about the film.

Watch it!

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Old January 26th, 2003, 05:19 PM   #12
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Here's another favorable review from Roger Ebert:

http://www.suntimes.com/output/ebert...s-city24f.html
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Old January 26th, 2003, 06:38 PM   #13
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Tremendous

I saw the movie yesterday and I can't stop thinking about it. It was a 10am show and the theatre was packed. I guess the word is out, go see it for the cinematography alone. But, it really is the story that keeps your eyes glued to the screen (which sometimes is made more difficult because of the violence, there's a lot) and you become immersed in this city, in their lives. It was shot beautifully but what I was impressed with was the coloring, everything was so rich, so saturated. It makes me wish I made this movie, which is the best thing I can say about anything. I am going to go to see it again tommorow.
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Old February 12th, 2003, 09:28 PM   #14
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Indeed a great film but..

I understand the director's choice to shoot handheld (as it adds to the immediacy & tension) but it really does take a toll on the eyes. I feel it was overused in the film.
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Old February 12th, 2003, 11:24 PM   #15
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City of God, great movie, absolutely great.
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