Sunday, January 31, 2010

City of God. B+

Director Fernando Meirelles is equally concerned with style and storytelling in 'City of God.' Or you could say his concern with style is part of his method for telling the story. Regardless, 'City of God' is a flashy picture-gritty, yet full of style. It seems like he's got something to say with every shot, or, in the case of quick editing, series of shots. Yet the movie's style definitely should not overshadow the story he's trying to tell. And for the most part it doesn't. There is a vibrant, compelling narrative string connected with the energetic style. I only wish that the movie had taken a few breaks from its adrenaline-filled pace and showed a more personal side of the characters. Unfortunately 'City of God' is all business. It wants to give us a portrait of crime life in Rio de Janeiro and does so unflinchingly. The movie opens at a random scene and introduces the main character and narrator of the story, a boy named Rocket. It then flashes back and shows us how the current wave of gangsters developed, starting in the sixties and going to the eighties. One particular menacing character, who's undeniably the film's villain, is a violent drug dealer named Li'l Ze. It shows us his origins from when he was a kid who gleefully killed people to his adulthood when he's even worse. While the movie shows us the crime life it also develops a conflict between two gangs, one led by Li'l Ze and other by the much more sympathetic Mane Galinha, a.k.a Knockout Ned. All of this is seen through the eyes of Rocket, who succeeds in not letting violence and drugs consume his life. His real passion is photography, which serves a purpose to the plot at the end of the film. 'City of God' is a violent movie and also a sad one. There are some scenes that are truly tough, especially one involving two Runts-the young boys who try to emulate the older gangsters. This is a very good movie, but in terms of connecting the characters' emotions to viewer, it didn't quite succeed. Compare it to a movie like 'Sin Nombre' and you'll see why.

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