Por Carlos Augusto Brandão
In 1976, the Italian master Ettore Scola made an u-turn on his usual lyrical style of cinema and filmed a ferocious story called Brutti, Sporchi e Cattivi (Ugly, Dirty and Bad). In it, Scola portrays a brutal panel of sub human individuals living in a Roman shanty-town. They were also mean, greedy and egotistic, besides ugly, dirty and bad.
Well, young Brasilian director Claudio Assis, in his maiden feature Mango Yellow, makes Scolas characters seem like coming out of some religious boarding school.
Nevertheless, Assis film has fallen into the graces of film critics everywhere: in the Berlinales Forum, Mango Yellow received the Award of Best Film given by the International Confederation of Art Cinemas; in the Toulose Latin Festival, it received the Grand Prix; and at the Miami Film Festival, the best cinematography, given to Walter Carvalhos splendid yellow-tinged work. At the Brasilian Fortaleza Film Festival, it won all of the eleven awards offered.
"Yellow is the color of the teeth of Pernambucos poor peasants, yellow is the color of their hats, yellow is the color of the pus in their wounds", says an indignant Claudio Assis, himself a native of the poverty ridden northeastern state of Brasil. A passerby that occasionally heard those explosive words could even judge them as coming from the mouth of a pamphleteering radical. Not so. Assis believes in each word he says, and that hes not exaggerating (not too much, anyway) the condition of the poor people he chose to show in his film. And that this is his best way to help them.
Filmed in Recife, the same location of his first work, the short Texas Hotel, Claudios Mango Yellow brings to the spectators a strange parade of bizarre and marginal characters: Kanibal, a womanizing butcher (Chico Diaz, in a first rate performance) married to Kika, a church-going evangelical fundamentalist; Dunga (Mateus Nachtergaele, again in a strong showing), a homosexual cook who is in love with Kanibal ; Isaac (Jonas Bloch), a necrophilic sadist who trades marijuana for corpses with a morgue employee; Ligia (Lena Cavalli), the sexy proprietor of a nearby café, who teases men but really despises them. A Catholic Church that is kept closed because its priest is always drunk.
Mango Yellow is a film which is not easy to see without feeling a certain weight in the stomach: it puts together stories and characters which mingle adultery with necrophilia and sexual perversions, loneliness and depression, all tightly built in a film basket of human misery without concessions. But Assis doesnt seem afraid of being labeled as just another director who loves scatology, psychic disorders or gratuitous violence: to him, " extreme poverty, lack of respect for the human being and the daily battle so many people have to fight in order to survive, represents the true violence".