While by no means a fully-fledged work like what would come afterwards and make his nome, Brazilian director Glauber Rocha's debut Barravento carries all the seeds of his spectacularly explosive mash-up of high art and folk traditions, erudite aesthetics and popular narrative. Barravento is doubtless a more traditionally narrative feature than Black God, White Devil but no less exploratory and experimental.

    No doubt the stronger narrative drive comes from the convoluted production process, as the film was taken over by Mr. Rocha from its original writer and director, close friend Luiz Paulino dos Santos, after a disastrous initial shoot, then entirely rewritten and reshot and finally held up for nearly a year before being finally edited into its final form. Mr. Rocha may have later expressed his displeasure at the final result, but that doesn't make Barravento's tale of love and jealousy in a Bahia fishermen's village any less "Glauberian" in its articulation of tradition and modernity, folk beliefs and socialist politics. The story comes out of the return to the village of now flush with cash ne'er-do-well Firmino (Antônio Sampaio), whose refusal of the unbroken cycle of poverty of the local fishermen and meddling in a labour dispute sets in motion a chain of events that will question the village's mere existence.

     There is a sense of brutalist, ethnic reality at play as Mr. Rocha's lengthy takes of candomblé religious rituals or capoeira fights, in the way these simple people's daily struggles are heroicized by his constructivist camera setups and Tony Rabatony's stark black-and-white photography. But there is also a sense of tropical fever slowly taking over in a heady, lush, overwrought brew of Afro-Brazilian mysticism, Hollywood exotic melodrama stripped of gloss, socialist utopia and serious socio-cultural questioning; a mesmerizingly unique concoction where we can anticipate the disassembled, allegorical narrative and strong moods of what was to come afterwards — and an outstanding debut film on its own.

Cast: Antônio Sampaio, Luiza Maranhão, Lucy Carvalho, Aldo Teixeira

Director: Glauber Rocha
Screenplay: Mr. Rocha, José Telles de Magalhães, Luiz Paulino dos Santos, from a story by Mr. dos Santos
Cinematography: Tony Rabatony (b&w)
Editor: Nelson Pereira dos Santos
Producers: Rex Schindler, Braga Neto (Iglu Filmes)
Brazil, 1962, 80 minutes

Screened: DVD, Lisbon, December 8th 2012


Window of Life said…
Great! :)

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