was hyperinflation that laid once noble Saxon families low in Stefan Zweig’s
short story. In Bernard Attal’s Brazilian adaptation, it is a fungal pestilence
known as the “Witches Broom” that has ravaged plantations in Bahia. Yet
collectors still collect, obsessively. A young art dealer will seek the rare prints
his father sold to an eccentric customer, but the old man’s family will have
none of him in Attal’s The Invisible
screens during the 2014 Brazilian Film Festival in New York.
a departure from Zweig, Beto is a former DJ, whose high flying party world came
crashing down when an SUV full of his closest friends died in a traffic
accident. As a strange attempt to rouse her deflated son, Dona Iolanda suddenly
reveals the precarious state of their finances. Yet, it sort of works,
especially when an old colleague drops by with word an American curator will
pay top dollar for a formerly obscure artist’s work. It turns out his father
sold several such pieces to Samir Loedy, an eccentric cocoa plantation owner in
faith in his charm, Beto sets out to reacquire the prints and flip them to the
American, but Loedy’s wife Dona Clara and daughter Saada are not taken in. A
game of wits ensues, as Beto struggles to make contact with Don Samir, scrambling
to evade the strong, forceful women of the plantation.
the original source material is a brief O. Henryesque tale, Attal’s feature
treatment (co-written with Sérgio Machado and Iziane Mascarenhas) nicely
expands and Brazilianizes the story in ways that feel natural and logical. Even
though it sounds like a cliché on paper, the halting attraction between the
urban hipster and the earthy, gun-toting Saada is particularly well turned by Vladimir
Brichta and Ludmila Rosa, respectively.
Brichta is a bit of a bland playboy in his scenes without Rosa, but he is
evidently quite the thing with teenage Brazilian girls, so here he is. As Dona
Clara, Clarisse Abujamra brings real grace and dignity to the film, while Walmor
Chagas deftly avoids overplaying the blind and somewhat muddled Loedy. Still,
we really did not need the plucky shanty kid who appoints himself Beto’s
personal tour guide (that is one overused convention Attal and company are not
able to appreciably freshen up).
the French transplant, has documented the very real Witches Broom outbreak in a
previous film, so he is highly attuned to its devastating effects. As a result,
he strikingly captures the beauty and the blight of the Bahia region. Still,
the vibe is not radically different from that of Zweig (who took his own life
while living as a political émigré in Brazil).
Attal’s take also comes amid the blossoming of a
mini-cinematic renaissance for Zweig’s work. In addition to Patrice Leconte’s
faithful but bloodless adaptation of A Promise, Zweig’s oeuvre was an inspiration for the Grand Budapest Hotel. More than a footnote to this trend, Attal’s Collection is a rather thoughtful blend
of old and new world sensibilities. Recommended for literate audiences, The Invisible Collection screens this coming
Tuesday (6/2) and next Friday (6/6) as part of this year’s Brazilian Film
Festival in New York.
Labels: BRAFF NY '14, Brazilian Cinema, Stefan Zweig