A review of “City of God”
by Jeanne Aufmuth
Rating: R for excessive
gore, violence, language, disturbing images.
In Portuguese with English subtitles.
hours, 10 minutes
This is the
one to beat for end-of-the-year top ten honors.
Oscar entry for Best Foreign Language Film stings like an acid bath and packs a
wallop of gritty emotion.
flawless ode to slum warfare takes place in one of Rio de Janeiro’s darkest
recesses, a grim shantytown (favela) affectionately known as Cidade de Deus
(City of God). Already saturated in
poverty and despair, the City’s residents struggle to survive as drug trade and
organized crime gain a foothold. The
earliest “gang”, known as the Tender Trio, gets their kicks from basic highway
robbery that nets them cash and cachet. For the next generation, the simple fix
the point of view of sensitive teenager Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues) “City of God” weaves a
narrative spell that flashes forward and back from the late 1960s through to
the tumultuous 1980s. Rocket is the
point man throughout, a gentle soul and emotional anchor with a happy trigger
finger that yearns to maneuver a camera lens instead of a gun.
a never-ending cycle of violence, we are summarily introduced to the lowest
form of unconscionable scum Brazil has to
offer. Lil Zé (Leandro Firmino da Hora),
whose obsession with power leads him and his gang of pre-pubescent thugs to
callously kill off the competition. Red-headed Carrot (Matheus Nachtergaele),
whose burgeoning drug trade sparks a chain of events that give sanguineous
meaning to business rivalry. And Zé’s partner in crime, Benny (Phellipe
Haagensen), who discovers too late that the vortex of murderous rage is not to
with the seductive rhythms of Brazil while
vibrating atop blood-soaked terra firma, “God” isn’t an easy watch. A heady surplus of gloriously catchy technique
underpins cruel substance – hapless addicts, children killing children, and a bitter
thirst for revenge. But beneath the
surface carnage lies a surprisingly uplifting spirit, tinged with humor,
laughter, and hope.
rules the screen. Shot in the midst of Brazil’s vicious
favelas, “God” stars real life baby-hoods improvising their way through scenarios
they (unfortunately) know best. Visually stunning and socially relevant, “City
of God” is simply