Projections - Movie Reviews
City of God
City of God
Starring Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino da Hora, Phellipe Haagensen,
Douglas Silva, Jonathan Haagensen, Matheus Nachtergaele

City of God from Brazil's Fernando Meirelles, with a co-directing nod to Katia Lund, is an enthralling, sweeping drama that captures the turbulent lives of drug dealers and gangsters in Rio de Janeiro's slum.

The film-making heralded over by Meirelles with much held by Lund in feeling out the environment of ultra-violent urban decay is an artistic triumph with state-of-the-art visuals and colors blending to ad more sting to the moral decay on film and digital video. The script was fine tuned at the Sundance Lab and shares a similarity in scope and gritty authenticity to Amores Perros. But City of God has a kinetic energy about it that reminds one of Barbet Schroeder's Columbia-based Our Lady of Assassins hyped up a few notches.

The amusing credit introduction leads to bloodshed between feuding groups of kids who appear to be barely in their teens. That the movie is able to show a darker, lighter side within all the horror plays out like West Side Story taken to a highly implacable degree. What is resonant here is how mainly amateur actors deliver on Meirelles' escape allow the storytelling to reverberate back in different ears. The barrage of criminal youth and death starts in the 60's with the powerful homicidal teen Ze (Leandro Firmino de Hora).

A hellish environment is strongly felt in the hurried pacing as City of God unfolds as a series of blistering drug wars set in a sun-drenched landscape that reddens abruptly. Besides Ze, who runs the drug trade and, in time, owns the City of God, there is the smooth Bene and the vicious gangster Carrot. They are involved in the wretchedness which concerns a vengeful bus-fare collector, an appealing sharpshooter named Knockout Ned, whose girlfriend has been raped. Rocket's camera-work is signified in the shifting movements bolstered by jump cuts and in the crisp editing of the stories and characters which oddly gives a surrealism to the terrible loss of life.

Life becomes much more appreciated as City of God is finally given its due press coverage in a compelling adaptation of a novel from Paulo Lins who witnessed the devastation in Rio's ghettos.

City of God

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