Tuesday, April 12, 2005

City of God versus Sin City

stills from City of God

I watched Fernando Meirelles's City of God (2003) over the weekend and loved it, as just about everyone else who saw it at the time did. It's the story of semi-organized crime in a Rio de Janeiro slum (that goes by the titular 'City of God'), a shantytown district built by the government to segregate the poor away from the touristic city. Guns are everywhere; in a country that frets over the effect of violence in its teenage population, it is chastening to note that, in Cidade de Deus, these worries extend to pre-teens (and, really, pre-pre-teens). The film is beautiful, highly stylized, and plays on Brazil's eroticism.

A question: what is the difference between City of God and Sin City (reviewed, kind of, here)? SC is well-regarded, to be sure, but there is a great deal more hand-wringing about the fictional city's violence in comparison to that depicted in CoG. Some may lean on the pathos of the dead-enders in Rio, and they may have a point, but I think that the two films are closer then the Sin City's detractors admit.

Two other weekend movies: George Stevens's A Place in the Sun (1951) and Claude Chabrol's Fleur du mal (2003). The older film, a noirish melodrama based on Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, is notable for Liz Taylor's first adult performance; eighteen-year-old actress shimmers: it is impossible to avert your eyes when she is onscreen. Chabrol, the French Hitchcock, is going through the motions in his sixty-fifth (!) film: the intriguing plot about the intermarriage of two families across generations doesn't hang together in the end.

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