Tuesday, August 22, 2006

O Homem do Ano (The Man of the Year)

We remember Murilo Benício from O Clone/El Clon, one of the finer examples of the Telenovela form!

Here he plays Máiquel, a car salesman whose destiny takes a screechingly sharp turn the moment he is forced to dye his hair blond as a result of losing a bet.

After he blows away a local teenage low-life the cops come to congratulate him not arrest him and he soon starts to accumulate gifts from grateful neighbours on his doorstep, including a piglet he names Bill. Several stiffs down the line and he's running a 'security' company serving the interests of a group of right-thinking men of property (and one bent policeman) that favour an hygienic approach to Rio's violent underclass.

This film is immense fun. There are moral and sociological issues fizzling in the background (who in Latin America hasn't come across armchair executioners that would to 'clean' up all the bad guys?) but Fonesca doesn't pause to analyse them; his main focus is on the trajectory of Máiquel, an otherwise quiescent man who slides into the life of a professional killer. The political fable is one you have to complete yourself.

Around three quarters of the way through director José Henrique Fonseca seems to release himself from the self-imposed need to be at once flagrantly stylish and ironical. Some might experience the fading of humour towards the end as a loss, but it didn't particularly bother us.

Did Patricia Melo name her matador Máiquel in hommage to that other reluctant capo, Michael Corleone? There are echoes too of Pacino's other great gangster role, Scarface, though Máiquel's destiny doesn't resolve itself quite so drastically.

It's a bit of a family affair: Fonesca's father Rubem helped turn Melo's novel into a script and his wife Cláudia Abreu played Cledir, Máiquel's wife, whose termination proves more awkward than most for the Man of the Year.

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