Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
A Wolf at the Door: a Kidnapping in Rio
most violent criminal cases, the cops automatically suspect relatives or someone
close to the family. The kidnapper of six-year-old Clara certainly qualifies as
the latter. You could say she has a relationship with both the mother and the
father. What starts out as a mystery becomes a stark inquiry into motivation, so
do not expect any bossa nova in Fernando Coimbra’s uncompromisingly grim and
gritty A Wolf at the Door (trailer here), which opens
tomorrow in New York.
this fateful afternoon, poor Clara is picked up from school, but not by her
mother, Sylvia, who has good reason to panic. Since she and her husband
Bernardo have little money, ransom seems unlikely, so they immediately turn to
the police. Det. Delgado is aloof, but he has some choice comments for the
teachers who blithely lets Clara walk away with her abductor. Those lines
provide the only humor, dark as it is, throughout Coimbra’s relentlessly dour
soon falls on Rosa, Bernardo’s mistress, but she manages to talk her way
through Delgado’s first interrogation. However, when we learn she knowingly
cultivated an ostensive friendship with Sylvia, her presumptive rival, it is safe
to assume something is up with her.
the first act is relatively procedural-ish, Coimbra quickly lays all his cards
on the table, through a series of flashbacks and time-shifts. We get the facts
quickly enough, but the film wants us to agonize over questions of motive and
madness. While we can admire the integrity of Coimbra’s approach, most
well-adjusted viewers will resent the way he forces the audience to wallow in
his characters’ existential wretchedness.
face it, this film is not much fun. Granted, the performances are powerfully
effective, but in a scrupulously realistic way. Obviously, there is no escapism
in Wolf, nor is there any stylistic
devices to distance viewers from the angst and bile on-screen. It is like
watching a disturbingly intimate and exploitative documentary.
the vaguely nauseous dread Wolf inspires
is a testament to its small ensemble. Milhem Cortaz is particularly menacing as
Bernardo, the low rent Lothario. Juliano Cazarré is also shrewdly understated
as Delgado, while Leandra Leal nurtures Rosa’s corrosive craziness quite
is easy to resent Wolf for rubbing
our noses in its inhumanity, but it must be conceded Coimbra plays a masterfully
manipulative game of show-and-tell every step of the way. Unfortunately, it
rather belabors the same naturalistic and deterministic notes over and over. Recommended
for fans of Latin American miserablism, A
Wolf at the Door opens tomorrow (3/27) in New York, at the Village East.
Labels: Brazilian Cinema, Kidnapping films