de Janeiro has the world’s coolest sidewalks. You can also hear terrific and
wonderfully diverse music performed throughout the city. With that many
musicians, there must be a million stories in the Naked Rio. That is why the
sketchy, fragmentary nature of the latest installment of the “Cities of Love”
anthology franchise is so frustrating. Even the romance is under-quota in a
bunch of people’s Rio, I Love (trailer here), which opens this Friday in
the Rio setting, most of the characters are American, British, or Australian,
so do not waste time looking for a Seu Jorge walk-on. It isn’t there. However,
the opening “Dona Fulana” is a bit of an unfortunate outlier, featuring a
Brazilian cast in the dubious tale of a plucky old woman who explains to her
respectable grandson who much happier she is on the streets than living a life
of hypocrisy. Remember that next time the UHO scam artists hit you up for money
on the subway.
Sorrentino’s “La Fortuna” sort of works as a mordant little twist noir, but it
never really establishes why the wheelchair bound husband has reason to believe
things will work out as they do. Still, it shows off a side of Emily Mortimer
we rarely get to see. Arguably, Fernando Meirelles’ “A Musa” is the most successful
segment. It also happens to be entirely dialogue free. Stephen Elliott’s “Acho que
Estou Apaixonado,” a tale of an Australian movie star recklessly climbing
Sugarloaf Mountain is less accomplished, but at least it is fully developed and
provides some lovely scenery, along with a bizarre Bebel Gilberto cameo.
Turturro’s deliberately overwrought “Quando não há Mais Amor” just doesn’t work, even with the
French retro-pop stylings of Vanessa Paradis. Guillermo Arriaga’s “Texas” falls
nearly as flat, but throws in an element of exploitation for additional
discomfort. Im Sang-soo’s “O Vampiro do Rio” has tons of style and promises
great potential, but it is over practically as soon as it starts, as if the
producers could only secure him a twenty-four-hour visa. Likewise, Carlos
Saldanha’s “Pas de Deux” is lovely to look at, but maddeningly fragmentary.
Dittos for José Padilha’s “Inútil Paisagem,” which has some
nice looking shots Wagner Moura hang-gliding and not much else.
least, Nadine Labaki closes the film on a relative high note, perhaps because
there is actually a concept behind “O Milagre.” Of course, the notion of Harvey
Keitel appearing as himself is a strong foundation. While in Rio filming a
ridiculously melodramatic Thorn Birds rip-off
with Labaki, Kietel is convinced to literally play God over the phone with a terminally
ill boy. As usual, Keitel is highly watchable and he develops good chemistry
with Labaki and the rest of the cast and crew of the film-within-the-film.
the third of producer Emmanuel Benbihy’s city anthologies, following Paris and
New York, with Tbilisi already on deck. Frankly, the Georgian capital seems
like an unlikely setting for the frothy series, but maybe that is a good thing.
Hopefully, all the contributing filmmakers came with fully conceived concepts
ready to go. In contrast, after watching Rio,
we can only guess many of the constituent directors assumed the city would
inspire them and just decided to wing it. Still, it all sounds great, thanks to
the music of Gilberto Gil, Chico Buarque, Celso Fonseca, Bebel Gilberto,
Cartola, Maucha Adnet, and masters like Jobim and Villa-Lobos. Seriously, you
might try watching it with your eyes closed. The soundtrack is highly
recommended, but the film is way too inconsistent and patchy. For diehard
Brazilophiles, Rio, I Love You opens
this Friday (4/15) in New York, at the Landmark Sunshine.
Labels: Anthology Films, Bebel Gilberto, Chico Buarque, Cities of Love franchise, Gilberto Gil, Harvey Keitel, John Turturro, Paolo Sorrentino, Vanessa Paradis