DIRECTOR: HECTOR BABENCO
COUNTRY: BRAZIL 1981
CINEMATOGRAPHY: RODOLFO SANCHES
MUSIC: JOHN NESCHLING
CAST: Fernando Ramos da Silva (Pixote), Jorge Juliao (Lilica), Gilberto Moura (Dito), Marilia Pera (Sueli)
FROM THE NOVEL: Infancia dos Mortos (The infancy of the dead) by Jose Louzeiro
SUPER FEATURES: Story, and the acting is excellent.
(Subtitled The Law of the Weaker One)
This film reminds me of LUIS BUNUEL's LOS OLVIDADOS. it has a similar opening, with an editorial, that leads us into the story of the people, with actual people in the roles. Where BUNUEL used, some 30 years before real actors in Mexico city, Hector Babenco, uses the actual children that are a part of this life and have very little chance to get out of it.
The real story is a law in the state of Sao Paolo (Brazil) that does not allow children under 18 to be put through the penal system. And for this, many children are hired by thugs to do many of the dirty deeds and work, from killing, to mere drug deals. The children are, when caught, placed in an institution, where they are hoped to be reformed, and the film makes the point that this does not help very much at all.
And in the process, Pixote (a nickname that means little bastard) becomes a part of a group that is involved in various things, one of which is to make a few deals in drugs, involving a prostitute that lives in Rio de Janeiro. These deals fall through, but Pixote, who is more adapt at dealing than his friends, becomes a partner of sorts for a while with a woman that pretty much becomes his mother, until they accidentally kill a customer of hers that they want to rob, an American.
While the film is not a great one, it does have some very nifty performances by some kids that are actual members of these groups and they shine. I suppose that we could hope that this film helps them become everyday useful members of the society.... but in an industry that uses luck for sales, this is unlikely to happen. The surety is that these people will continue being the same as they have been all their lives, and with a slight chance, at best, to recover. The inevitable result is that they will become real live members of the hardcore group that does not reform.
Pixote makes friends with a gay man and they go to Rio, where life still has a bit of a dream for some of them. Lilica, wants a lover that will help his life be alive, and Pixote, still young, just wants to survive, without having to put up with the many insults which his older friends afford him.
While this is not a pleasant film, there is nothing visual that is actually unpleasant, other than the ideas themselves. In the process, the train trip from Sao Paolo to Rio, becomes a nice escape from the over crowded situation that the boys must share in their quarters before they go out into the world. Sao Paolo, is over populated, and too many of the street children are left behind. These children are the victims of the society, and its valiant efforts to correct these kids into worthy members of society. But the real problem may just be that what Pixote finds, is also a lot of corruption right above his head, which undermines the efforts of anyone around him. The reform school's leaders are also people whose motives could be questioned, and they often lie to get the results they want, or they strive to hide the truth, just so that the government and the
press will leave them alone to do their job.
With some performances that really shine, Fernando Ramos da Silva as Pixote and Jorge Juliao as the gay friend, this film ends up being very attractive, and one that made the circles in the art houses for film in the early 80's. One just can't help feeling sorry for those kids, and the sad life they lead, and the attempts (by all parties) to improve, be it justified or not.
This film signaled the entry of HECTOR BABENCO as a major director of film in Brazil, and later in the world stage. If there is a trial going on, however, the real question is, did this film help the social plight on behalf of these children.... this remains to be seen. As opposed to LOS OLVIDADOS, which became a bitter, and satiric, look on those who surrounded the children, this film does make an effort to present a solution.... but where does it end.??? It doesn't.... and the film can not end, since we know the participants are "out there" and still a part of that system. LOS OLVIDADOS became a story of an individual or two, who had moments where his visions, or interpretations, of what happened in front of him, dominated the stage.... here, the outside world dominates the space.... and the children are manipulated throughout... I suppose that Pixote wants a break from all this, and his scene, where he merely wants to suckle, rather than make love to the
prostitute that has become his mother of sorts, becomes the focal point, and the lack of understanding that these children suffer from. A moment when absolution is at hand, becomes a moment of destruction. And the prostitute, who probably came from the same circles does not understand any better the needs... she can only think of herself as a product, with a mission in mind... to earn money to make a living.
The film is careful not to make a judgment here, although the prostitutes plight, is scary to her. She is afraid of getting pregnant, because it prevents her from paying rent.
Very good film, although it could be considered sordid, and sad.
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