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City of God
Brazil, France
Crime, Drama
IMDB rating:
Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund
Alexandre Rodrigues as Buscapé Criança - Young Rocket
Leandro Firmino as Dadinho - Li'l Dice
Phellipe Haagensen as Bené Criança - Young Benny
Douglas Silva as Dadinho - Li'l Dice
Jonathan Haagensen as Cabeleira - Shaggy
Matheus Nachtergaele as Sandro Cenoura - Carrot
Seu Jorge as Mané Galinha - Knockout Ned
Jefechander Suplino as Alicate - Clipper
Alice Braga as Angélica
Emerson Gomes as Barbantinho - Stringy
Edson Oliveira as Barbantinho Adulto - Older Stringy
Michel de Souza as Bené Criança - Young Benny
Roberta Rodrigues as Berenice - Bernice
Luis Otávio as Buscapé Criança - Young Rocket
Storyline: Brazil, 1960's, City of God. The Tender Trio robs motels and gas trucks. Younger kids watch and learn well...too well. 1970's: Li'l Zé has prospered very well and owns the city. He causes violence and fear as he wipes out rival gangs without mercy. His best friend Bené is the only one to keep him on the good side of sanity. Rocket has watched these two gain power for years, and he wants no part of it. Yet he keeps getting swept up in the madness. All he wants to do is take pictures. 1980's: Things are out of control between the last two remaining gangs...will it ever end? Welcome to the City of God.
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This movie in effect is fast paced and hard to follow
I have seen this movie only recently (2005) and it's easily one of the better foreign films I have seen. Actually, it's probably just about one of the best films I had ever seen.

The characters really make this movie come alive with each of their compelling personalities shining though in the backdrop of oppressive conditions and constant violence. One thing which clearly comes to mind is "Lil' Dice's" ear to ear smile - so vivid and yet so ironic since he personifies pure evil.

The City of God is a world you don't want to visit, it won't be featured on a post card, and it's said to be the city ignored by god himself. This movie makes you feel uncomfortable, puts you on the edge of your seat -- you are right into the middle of the City and you too are caught up in it's violent temptation. More importantly, it's about the triumph of the human spirit against all odds.

This movie in effect is fast paced and hard to follow (with the added stress of subtitles over Portuguese), but it's worth it; and in fact really adds to the impetuous and impulsive undertones of the movie. In addition, the quintessential Brazilian music blending into the film like a well made Caprahina makes it feel authentic like the Italian music in the God Father.

You see the flaws of these men played out in an almost fatalistic nature -- hated, greed, futility; and in it all we see ourselves, our own flaws, and our own condition.
Great Rental Movie Along the Lines of 'American History X'
This is a great rental movie similar to American History X. Both were movies I didn't expect much of, but the narratives become so engrossing, you're surprised you hadn't heard more praise about them. They both ride tightly spun narratives and culminate with satisfying climaxes. If you haven't seen it, this is a great movie to rent and better ultimately than you'd expect.

Bold, brutal and simply brilliant
'City of God' or 'Cidade de Deus' is one of the most realistic and brutal gangster films I have ever seen and without question one of the best foreign language films ever made. Set in the slums of Rio, it gives an shocking account of gang culture in a city where crime and violence is the natural path for most young people growing up in deprived communities.

The way in which the story is told, from Rocket's perspective, contributes enormously to the film. The narration, combined with the realistic storyline and characters, means 'City of God' plays more like a documentary than a crime/drama film adapted from a novel. There's no shortage of violence and some of the scenes are very hard-hitting, but 'City of God' is well worth the ride. A bold, brutal and simply brilliant film.
Down and dirty
This movie does not take any prisoners. Although I have not been into any "favella" (= ghetto) and I don't really know if the movie depicts it realistically, I do know that it is a gripping story. About kids growing up in a violent environment. Not that this movie is an action movie. It's a drama, with action scenes in it.

The style and the look remind you a little bit of a documentary, just to make things scarier/real. It fully achieves it's goal. The "actors" (the director mostly used people who really live or lived in Brazilian ghetto) are superb too. And since the story is well written and told, there is nothing more you could wish for. Of course if watch it in it's original version and don't speak Portuguese, than you will have to read the subtitles ... but it's more than worth it (and I personally prefer it that way)
The Three-Body Problem
Spoilers herein.

The first choice a modern filmmaker has to make is deciding who is the camera. Everything flows from that decision, inheriting already maturing visual vocabularies for each path chosen. It's very hard to be novel today: most interesting projects come from careful integration of a novel eye with a novel narrative stance - parallels, time reversals, untrusted narrators, etc. But here is something new, thanks to the creative incubator of Brazilian TeeVee commercials, one of the more vital pockets of popular art around.

In this case, we have three characters: a narrator/photographer, a dancer, and a `pusher' who literally pushes the linear logic each step at a time. Each of these is represented by a camera philosophy (and accompanying editing style) which are mixed up helter-skelter. The most obvious is the notion of the `running camera' which sometimes looks at the road or away as it moves in frenzy.

This is interspersed with a rhythmic camera. This camera (Benny's eye) is the one that permeated most: it is reasonable yet hedonistic. In the first few seconds, we are introduced to these two in masterful composition: the observing, recording chicken who subsequently runs with a following POV. This is mixed with the aggressive logic of rhythm. If opening shots are promises, this is a strong promise. Over time, the third eye is folded in, literally a folding of linear stories. Each is tightly linear until it hits a node, then goes off on a tangent or a new direction usually paralleling something already seen. Garrison Keiller is the master practitioner of this sort of storytelling; not chopped Clancey-style; not shuffled Tarantino-like; but direct until hitting a capricious nexus, then direct again.

All three are shooters. The story is irrelevant: kids killing kids, albeit sometimes viscerally. The characters are literally disposable. The experience is nominally about the place, but it is really about how we are shown the place. I do not think this will reinvent film like a few projects have (from Welles, Tarkovsky, Greenaway, Kurosawa, even recently Luhrmann) but it is a visual adventure worth taking and a fresh experience.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 4: Worth watching.
City of God
City of God (2002) directed by Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund paints an entirely different picture of life in Rio than the welcoming Cristo Redentor may exude. The film explores the dangerous, yet sadly mundane life that the youth live in the slum that the poor live in called the City of God. Rocket, a young photographer trying to separate himself from the violence, narrates the story and captures the daily life of the city through his lens.

The use of several different angles and chaotic scenes allow one to garner a sense of the danger that is present at every second. Li'l Ze, who is around the same age as Rocket, establishes his intentions early on. Guns are the weapon of choice of the "hoods" and very abundant throughout the movie. A low angle shot of Lil Ze holding a revolver with the camera staring into the barrel marks his reign of terror, and the grin on his face relays his sinister personality. As time goes on and the children grow older, Lil Ze expands on his portfolio of illegal activities and Rocket cannot avoid crossing paths with him in the city. Some scenes involving Ze's activities are captured through Rocket's camera, putting the danger right in the room. Crane shots are used to establish the compact corridor layout of the streets, and the tight spaces add to the discomfort of watching the hoods roam through the city as if there were the Minotaur in the maze.

Because much of the film takes place during the 1970s, there is a constant battle between war and peace. Lil Ze best friend Benny takes up the hippie lifestyle, and this change in personality challenges Lil Ze to explore the "human" part in "humanity" for the first time. Are past crimes forgivable? Is there hope for those that have been inserted into this dangerous way of life? The viciousness and cruelty of the plot begs to differ, yet nothing is certain as there are no rules in the City of God.
A masterpiece for the ages
Set in the slums of 1960s and 70s Rio De Janeiro, this masterpiece somehow manages to be both a romantic coming-of-age tale, a brutal drama, and an action-packed gangster movie all in one.

The cinematography is a visual feast and the palates used for the different eras of the film help define the climate and mood of the neighborhood at that particular time. Very well done. The visual style of the film is both exciting and innovative. Not the controlled camera movements of a slick American mafia flick but instead seems to be inspired by the rhythm of neighborhood in which the film takes place- very frenetic, raw, and loose camera-work that feels like a documentary at times while seamlessly sneaking in extremely stylish homages to gangster films of the past.

The cast- which seems to be full of mostly non-actors and unknowns outside of Brazil- seems to be expertly chosen. There isn't a single second of the film that isn't believable.

If you haven't seen this film yet it should be at the top of your list. Easily one of the greatest films of all time.
A Mindblowing Masterpiece!
This movie is absolutely amazing! It is a cinematic tour de force. It is undoubtedly one of the top ten best movies ever made. Comparable to American masterpieces such as Goodfellas or Pulp Fiction. But it is its own unique film.

It is based on a true story of one boys desperate attempt to survive and escape the city of god (the slums of Rio de Janeiro) a truly brutal and violent place. A place where murders, holdups, drugs, and criminals are commonplace.

This film announces the presences of a truly talented filmmaker, Fernando Meirelles. He directs this film with a ferocious, frantic, intensity perfectly merging every aspect of the film. He uses many different filming tricks from split screen to freeze frame. Each one is used at exactly the right time for the exact right reasons.

All of this combines to make an unforgettably perfect cinematic masterpiece that i highly recommend. 10/10 A++
In terms of movie-making, there's nothing like it.
City of God (2002)

A broiling, gruesome, vivid, unforgiving submersion in the drug and crime world of a Rio de Janeiro barrio. You want to just say wow wow wow, it's so violent and awful, and yet the filming and acting, wow again, it's virtuosic and artful. On that most visceral level, there is no faulting a film with this kind of cinematic integrity.

Questions start to rise by the last hour, however. In terms of the subject, you wonder, could it be so? Is life so apparently run by children with guns? Where are the older thugs, where are all the kids who aren't criminals, on and on? You come to realize this is a hugely partial view. That's okay, for sure--it's a movie--but it then draws attention to its own need for violence. You will never see so many people ruthlessly, heartlessly, even laughingly murdered, point blank, by children, on and on and on. This makes the movie awesome and awful, both. As a narrative story, it needs, it demands, greater complexity, and maybe, even if it's basically fiction, greater truth.

On this level, the movie begins to depend on its energy to succeed. It has energy to spare, for sure, both in the acting, and in the camera-work, both of which are nothing short of unbelievable. But there is a lack, oddly enough with all these "types" of young men and boys, of actual "character." Where is some sense of the psychology behind so many of these people. Yes, the mood, the interactions, the scenes taken whole, the groups and even the confrontations leading (usually) to murder, all are filled with human depth. But the individuals seem largely to be types of people, not digging into their motivations and their inner states of mine. Maybe that's asking too much.

I've seen the movie twice now, and twice I got anxious half way through because it was mostly kinetics and film-making on crack. And it really is astonishing stuff. But as with Slumdog Millionaire, the fractured and imaginative mise-en-scenes would mean so much more with deeper understanding of the human elements involved.

A masterpiece, with some large chinks in its armor.
Real eye opener
The City of God is the name of a city slum in Rio de Janeiro. The movie is so shocking in the amount of violence that takes place in these streets, that it is one place you must not go. The movie follows the lives of several kids who grow up in the slums during the 60's, 70's, and 80's. Some kids took the path of crime, violence and the drug trade, and others tried to escape the slum. The senseless violence in this movie was so brutal that even the cops wouldn't go into the slums without a squad of men. It looked like all the teenagers had a gun, and they would use it if anybody looked the wrong way. One of the kids, Buscape became a photographer for a newspaper, and this story was described and seen through his eyes. The movie is a real eye opener on how little life is worth in other parts of the world. The movie is not in English and has subtitles. (Miramax Films, Run Time 1:30, Rated R) (6/10)
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