Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Today's Fanboy Delusion

Today I'd rather be...

... knocking one back with Rodrigo Santoro.

Speaking of Rodrigo...

... I saw Heleno, his bio-pic of the Brazilian soccer great, over the weekend. As you could tell from the trailer, the black-and-white cinematography's to die for, as is the way is frames and fetishizes Rodrigo himself - he has never looked better than he does in stretches of this film where Heleno's at the top of his game (supposedly; more on that supposedly in a sec). It's in those stretches, where the film's coasting along on Rodrigo's considerable star power, where the film works best - alas, once it becomes a document of Heleno's crumbling health and mind thanks to the ravages of syphilis it becomes quite frankly a downer. 

What, you say? Syphilis a downer? Say it ain't so! Listen, I get it, it's just the problem here is also the film's strength - if I were familiar with Heleno at all before this, then the deconstruction of his legend that the movie's working at would probably have been effective. I admire it for its relentless demythologization. But since I do not really get why Heleno is so esteemed, it's focus on only the bad things about him - his womanizing, his horrible temper, his addictions and eventual mental and physical disintegration - adds up to a lot of redundant signifiers that I've seen plenty of before and I'm missing out on the why. Why was Heleno so special that I need to hear his story? 

Besides the fact that he looks like Rodrigo Santoro, I still don't know. Through the film Heleno's always yammering how great he is, but the movie only shows us what a prick he was. And the film never quite feels universal enough to dig itself out of its specific cultural hole - I've heard all this stuff before, about people I actually know something about, ya know? Heleno's struggles never really felt entirely unique enough to travel quite this distance. We have our own beautiful talented syphilitics, thank you very much. The first half an hour though at least, it's a charmer, and the stylized window into the world of 1940s Brazil is a pip. I'd have gladly watched two hours of that and cut the moralizing "This is the price we pay for greatness slash assholishness!" half that I've heard several dozen thousand times before.

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