Friday, August 01, 2003

Saw Glauber Rocha's 1964 film Black God, White Devil. Rocha was a member of Brazil's Cinema Novo movement. He also wrote a manifesto called An Aesthetic of Hunger. Black God, White Devil is called Deus eo Diabo na Terra do Sol in the original Portuguese. I assume they translated it this way (rather than the literal God and the Devil in the Land of the Sun) in reference to Frantz Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks. Philippe Jalladeau describes the film: "Manuel, a herdsman, and his wife Rosa are on the run because of a bloody conflict with their 'coronel'. The couple joins mystics gathered around Sebastião, a black man who predicts the coming of an apocalyptic upheaval which will turn the Sertão into the sea and the sea into the Sertão. Ignored by Manuel, Rosa's eagerness brings about a violent break-up with the messianic preacher. As they keep travelling, the couple meet the survivors of the gang of cangaceiros led by Lampião. His lieutenant, Corisco, wants to raze Sertão to the ground. He is chased by Antonio das Mortes, the fazendeiros' henchman full of the importance of his murderous fate. The conclusion, announced by a blindman and sung by the chorus, shows Manuel that the earth belongs neither to God nor to the Devil." This is one of the most powerful films I've seen in a long time. The camerawork is reminiscent of early Pasolini, the editing draws on Eisenstein, and the violence prefigures Sam Peckinpah's later blood operas. And the soundtrack is simply amazing. Rocha's films really need to be more readily available -- in fact, Latin American cinema in general needs to be more readily available.

No comments: