fans can be dangerous to your health.
You could have asked Brazilian football legend Heleno de Freitas about
it, but that would have been a very one-sided conversation. The one-two punch of syphilis and ether addiction
might have directly ravaged his body and mind, but he was really undone by his
inner demons. As a result, there is much
more tragedy than triumph in his real life sports story, dramatized in José
Enrique Fonseca’s Heleno (trailer here), which screens this
week during MoMA’s annual Premiere Brazil!
Pelé, there was de Freitas. He really
was a once in a generation player. Yet
he never appeared in a world cup match for Brazil. First World War II preempted the Cup, then de
Freitas’s erratic conduct essentially preempted himself. When he was good, he was great, but he was
never much of a team player. Poor
Alberto could attest to that. Ostensibly
de Freitas’s best friend and team-captain, the decent old chap is often the object
of de Freitas’s back-handed contempt.
there are plenty of women coming and going in the diva-striker’s life, but he
eventually settles on two: his wife Silvia, a respectable woman from a good
family and Diamantina, the sultry big band vocalist. Obviously, this is one too many—at least if
asked either of the women. Unfortunately,
the bad seeds of his wild years have already been sown. Though he is urged to get treatment, Heleno
is too busy making a hash of his life, both personally and professionally.
in a series of flashbacks from his long, hopeless period of
institutionalization, Heleno has to
be one of the darkest, most pessimistic sports films in years. Shot in a massively stylish black-and-white
by cinematographer Walter Carvalho (arguably Brazil’s most preeminent), the film
has a noir sensibility that is way more Lost
Weekend than Pride of the Yankees. A far cry from “the luckiest man on the face
of the Earth,” Heleno comes to believe he is saddled with persistent bad luck,
but everything is clearly his own fault.
there is not a lot of on-the-field action, but when there is, it is hardly glorious. Heleno is
almost an anti-sports bio-pic, grimly depicting the consequences of groupie
hook-ups and ether abuse. It is not a
pretty picture. At least Heleno sounds great, featuring several
era-appropriate big band numbers and a licensed Billie Holiday song (Ellington’s
Diamantina, Colombian actress Angie Cepeda seems pretty credible behind the
microphone and she (or whoever it is) sounds quite pleasing on the
soundtrack. Strangely though, she looks
like she could be the sister of Alinne Moraes’s Silvia, which makes the love
triangle harder to keep straight. However,
300’s Rodrigo Santoro is undeniably
the main event, falling apart spectacularly as de Freitas. It is big, fiery performance, marked
explosive rage and a painfully slow psychotic break from the outside
world. As a cautionary turn, it
certainly ought to scare kids away from the ether bottle.
bravura work from Santoro in front of the camera and Carvalho behind it, Heleno is a striking period production
and an uncompromising depiction of self-destructive behavior and mental
illness. Though de Freitas might not
have Pelé’s name recognition, the Brazilian football (soccer) angle ought to
guarantee it a devoted cult audience during festival play. Recommended for those who enjoy a
sophisticated 1940’s vibe and appreciate a classically tragic fall from grace, Heleno screens again this Wednesday
(7/18) in New York, as part of MoMA’s 2012 Premiere Brazil!
Labels: Brazilian Cinema, Heleno de Freitas, Premiere Brazil '12, Sports films