Vazante (Daniela Thomas, 2018)

Discuss films of the 21st century including current cinema, current filmmakers, and film festivals.
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DarkImbecile
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Joined: Mon Dec 09, 2013 6:24 pm
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Vazante (Daniela Thomas, 2018)

#1 Post by DarkImbecile » Mon Feb 26, 2018 6:41 pm

Daniela Thomas' Vazante, which debuted at the 2017 Berlinale but is just this winter making its way into the United States, is a slow-burn examination of the dynamics of gender, race, and class on a Brazilian plantation in the early 19th century. It would probably be worth seeing for Thomas' unique look at those elements alone (as well as Adriano Carvalho's lead performance), but I mostly want to draw attention to it here because of Inti Briones' stellar monochrome cinematography, which supplements the sound work to make the sensory experience unusually rich and evocative. Mud, leaves, sweat, dirt, fire, and tears are beautifully captured by Briones (most widely known for his work on The Loneliest Planet), and the imagery kept me entranced throughout. This is one of those films in which the "print any frame and hang it on your wall" praise applies without hyperbole, and also works as a depiction of a little-seen (certainly in this country) time and corner of the world, with an indictment of privilege, gender oppression, and slavery strong enough to pack an visceral punch. Definitely worth catching on a big screen if you're lucky enough to have it play near you, especially since I can't find any info on the possibility of a home video release.

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Kirkinson
Joined: Wed Dec 15, 2004 5:34 am
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Re: The Films of 2017

#2 Post by Kirkinson » Mon Feb 26, 2018 8:01 pm

I'm seeing it Wednesday on one of the those gigantic science museum screens (6:00 at OMSI for anyone else in Portland) so thanks for increasing my excitement exponentially!

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DarkImbecile
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Re: The Films of 2017

#3 Post by DarkImbecile » Mon Feb 26, 2018 8:44 pm

I'm more than a little jealous (I saw it on the smaller screen at one of the smaller art house theaters out here), and curious to hear what you think, since no one else I've talked to has seen it or even heard of it, and I haven't read any reviews yet.

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Big Ben
Joined: Mon Feb 08, 2016 12:54 pm
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Re: The Films of 2017

#4 Post by Big Ben » Mon Feb 26, 2018 8:49 pm

I can certainly ask my multitude of Brazilian friends about it. Granted they far prefer the media Hollywood puts out and consume their own media second.

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Brian C
Joined: Wed Sep 16, 2009 11:58 am
Location: Chicago, IL

Re: The Films of 2017

#5 Post by Brian C » Mon Feb 26, 2018 8:50 pm

I feel really stupid, because I half-kinda-sorta meant to see it when it played here in Chicago a couple weeks ago, and just didn't get around to it. Wish I had ... maybe the Siskel will find some room on their calendar for it later in the spring.

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Kirkinson
Joined: Wed Dec 15, 2004 5:34 am
Location: Portland, OR

Re: The Films of 2017

#6 Post by Kirkinson » Fri Mar 02, 2018 5:21 am

DarkImbecile wrote:Daniela Thomas' Vazante, which debuted at the 2017 Berlinale but is just this winter making its way into the United States, is a slow-burn examination of the dynamics of gender, race, and class on a Brazilian plantation in the early 19th century. It would probably be worth seeing for Thomas' unique look at those elements alone (as well as Adriano Carvalho's lead performance), but I mostly want to draw attention to it here because of Inti Briones' stellar monochrome cinematography, which supplements the sound work to make the sensory experience unusually rich and evocative. Mud, leaves, sweat, dirt, fire, and tears are beautifully captured by Briones (most widely known for his work on The Loneliest Planet), and the imagery kept me entranced throughout.
This is indeed an excellent film. The most immediately striking thing about it is just how authentic and lived-in the world feels, which has everything to do with the attention to texture that you mentioned. The photography is really stunning—it makes the environment look so stark and desolate despite being in the midst of a lush jungle, which syncs up with all the characters' emotional and psychological states really perfectly.

Carvalho's performance didn't especially stand out to me, but that's not a knock against him; rather, I just found the whole cast pretty uniformly superb. If any one actor stood out to me it was Geísa Costa as Joana, the head house slave, just because she managed to convey so many complicated emotions with so little to do. Which leads me to what is probably my only overriding criticism of the film, that I feel it might spend a little too much time on some of its least interesting characters. I just kept feeling like I wanted to spend more time with the slaves, and with Jeremias, all of whom were deeply compelling, while I sometimes found myself getting a little bored of Antonio & Beatriz (granted, she spends a good chunk of the film being bored herself).

That ending, though! I'm not going to spoil anything, but this is the sort of movie that telegraphs its ending from a mile away and uses its predictability to make you increasingly uneasy. Even so, I found the climax really shocking. Raw, emotionally violent. The final frame/sound/cut is a real jawdropper.

Unfortunately, I'm sorry to report that, from a technical standpoint, the image did not stand up to the size of the screen I saw it on, though it's difficult to say whether that has to do with how it was shot & edited, how it was projected, or what it was projected from. The Music Box Films logo preceded it*, so I would assume it was the same DCP they've been using for their theatrical run, but maybe it was a Blu-ray or some other kind of digital file? In any case, the whole film looked rather soft, especially in wide shots, and there was visible haloing more than occasionally. Despite being black-and-white, I think I even saw two instances of some kind of chromatic aberration—some purple fringing once on a candle flame and once alongside a character's head as they moved quickly across the screen—but without watching it frame-by-frame I wouldn't swear that wasn't just a trick of my eyes. Sad, but hopefully a fluke, because on an aesthetic level, the photography ought to really thrive on a big screen.

(*Along with about 572 others. Honestly, this movie was preceded by what had to be the longest, most exhausting list of co-production companies I have ever seen. The logos went on so long the audience got notably restless: handfuls of them started laughing, and a guy sitting near me eventually muttered, "Oh Jesus Christ, come on!" I'm not complaining, mind you: whatever disparate pieces they had to assemble to get the resources together for this was well worth it.)
DarkImbecile wrote:Definitely worth catching on a big screen if you're lucky enough to have it play near you, especially since I can't find any info on the possibility of a home video release.
Music Box Films has it listed as "Coming Soon," and it seems like they're pretty good about getting their stuff out on Blu-ray.

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DarkImbecile
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Re: The Films of 2017

#7 Post by DarkImbecile » Fri Mar 02, 2018 2:42 pm

Kirkinson wrote:Carvalho's performance didn't especially stand out to me, but that's not a knock against him; rather, I just found the whole cast pretty uniformly superb. If any one actor stood out to me it was Geísa Costa as Joana, the head house slave, just because she managed to convey so many complicated emotions with so little to do. Which leads me to what is probably my only overriding criticism of the film, that I feel it might spend a little too much time on some of its least interesting characters. I just kept feeling like I wanted to spend more time with the slaves, and with Jeremias, all of whom were deeply compelling, while I sometimes found myself getting a little bored of Antonio & Beatriz (granted, she spends a good chunk of the film being bored herself).
I don’t disagree with this, though in some cases, the film’s and the core characters' ignorance/ignoring of the supporting cast is thematically appropriate:
SpoilerShow
The rebellious slave who no one understands in the first half of the film is the best example; he can’t understand his circumstances or those who have enslaved him, and they can’t understand him.
Kirkinson wrote:Unfortunately, I'm sorry to report that, from a technical standpoint, the image did not stand up to the size of the screen I saw it on, though it's difficult to say whether that has to do with how it was shot & edited, how it was projected, or what it was projected from. The Music Box Films logo preceded it*, so I would assume it was the same DCP they've been using for their theatrical run, but maybe it was a Blu-ray or some other kind of digital file? In any case, the whole film looked rather soft, especially in wide shots, and there was visible haloing more than occasionally. Despite being black-and-white, I think I even saw two instances of some kind of chromatic aberration—some purple fringing once on a candle flame and once alongside a character's head as they moved quickly across the screen—but without watching it frame-by-frame I wouldn't swear that wasn't just a trick of my eyes. Sad, but hopefully a fluke, because on an aesthetic level, the photography ought to really thrive on a big screen.
That’s a real shame; I saw none of the chroma or other obvious issues you cite, and any softness is just the antithesis of the crisp, detail-rich projection I saw. I'd guess this primarily due to the screen size/source incompatibility, but you’d be even more impressed by the cinematography if you saw it projected well.
Kirkinson wrote:
DarkImbecile wrote:Definitely worth catching on a big screen if you're lucky enough to have it play near you, especially since I can't find any info on the possibility of a home video release.
Music Box Films has it listed as "Coming Soon," and it seems like they're pretty good about getting their stuff out on Blu-ray.
Excellent! Hope you get a chance to see it again the way it should look, even if only on a home system.

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