Avanti Popolo

Avanti Popolo

***

Reviewed by: Michael Pattison

Belying its digital imagery, Avanti Popolo looks and feels like it could have been shot on 16mm, something that is sadly increasingly unlikely as film stock becomes obsolete. Ironically, the film itself is all about loss – not only technological loss (vinyl competes for screen-time with CDs, a Super 8 projector is difficult to mend), but also the personal costs of Brazil’s military dictatorship and, just as tragically, the inclination to bury its prolonged traumas.

Living as a recluse with a dog named Whale, Mr Gatti (played by recently deceased Cinema Novo icon Carlos Reichenbach, to whose memory the film is dedicated) is reunited with his son André (André Gatti) when the latter turns up on his doorstep having separated from his wife. Denied access to a locked upstairs bedroom, André lives out of his suitcase in his father’s living room, which sits in darkness because the windows are forever shut. Wanting to reconcile with his pop, André seeks out a bunch of Super 8 reels of his brother, who fell victim to the country’s dictatorship. His pop would rather not see them – he is more moved by Whale’s disappearance.

Copy picture

As a kind of call to arms against nostalgia on the one hand but forgetfulness on the other, Uruguayan-born Michael Wahrmann charts ambitious terrain across 70 or so minutes. His film, a debut feature, pairs autobiography with political opinion; the domestic is, indeed, conditioned by the social. Linked to wider historical currents, cinema itself comes under attack: in a crucial and lengthy scene toward the end of the film, André visits a technician in order to have his Super 8 projector fixed, and gets drawn into a conversation about the possible demerits of cinematic manifestos.

Amusingly, the technician turns out to be the sole member of Dogme 2000, a movement whose first stipulation is that nothing can be shot: it must reconceptualise (through dubbing) previous film footage. Made to sit through a re-dubbed scene from Patton, André becomes increasingly riled, and keeps returning to it in the conversation that follows with backhanded compliments (“underdeveloped cinema is like that… solitary”).

You sense a deep scepticism on Wahrmann’s part for the fatally petty bourgeois nationalism that partly defined the prescriptive manifestos of Glauber Rocha and others from the mid-1960s onwards, and as championed since by Third Cinema advocates. Earlier in the film, furthermore, there’s an extended gag in which someone boasts of having just about every national anthem at hand – and André sarcastically plays along, rating and comparing the compositions. Wahrmann and his protagonist/ alter-ego much prefer less conservative music, as is made clear in the film’s excellent opening, including songs by the likes of Los Quilapayun, Daniel Viglietti, TactiKollectif, and Oy Division.

Reviewed on: 30 Apr 2013
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A son tries to reconnect with his father in a film that explores the nature of film.

Director: Michael Wahrmann

Writer: Michael Wahrmann

Starring: André Gatti, Carlos Reichenbach, Eduardo Valente

Year: 2012

Runtime: 72 minutes

Country: Brazil


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