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Cidade de Deus

January 15, 2011

One of the best films you’ll ever see.

City of God (Cidade de Deus), based on the true-life novel by Paulo Lins, is the story of hoodlums and gangs living and growing up in the slums of Rio De Janeiro. A coming of age story that I thought was a cross between Scarface, Pulp Fiction and Angels with Dirty Faces. The story unfolds in a non-linear fashion, but not in such a way that the story ever became confusing.

Where the movie failed just a bit for me, and this is a very minor nitpick, was in not spending a little more time explaining some of the social and economic events that were happening at the time which led to the situation in the slums. Events were touched on at the beginning of the movie, but I would have liked a little more.

Where City of God succeeded so brilliantly was in how realistic and well drawn the characters were. There wasn’t one character in the movie who was either all good or all bad. Everyone had their faults and everyone had personal issues that transcended what they might be doing in the movie. Screenwriter Braulio Mantovani and director Fernando Meirelles (he and I share a birthday!) didn’t manipulate us by trying to lead us in certain directions and make us like one character over another. They let us watch the story and make up our own minds.

I found this to be a tense and hard-nosed crime movie and every bit as adrenaline-charged as The Godfather and Goodfellas, as well as the three I mentioned above. The movie also features an excellent soundtrack.

On the box cover there’s a blurb from Roger Ebert that this is one of the best films you’ll ever see. I’m not a big fan of absolutes, but I would have a hard time disagreeing with Mr. Ebert’s assessment.

Because of the subject matter and the lives of the characters this isn’t always an easy movie to watch, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be watched. I rate City of God a 10 out of 10 and recommend it highly to anyone. The movie is in Portuguese with English subtitles If you’re not a fan of subtitles try not to let that put you off because this movie is well worth it. If you’ve ever wondered what a subtitled movie would be like, and you like crime dramas, then City of God is a great place to start.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Rubia permalink
    January 15, 2011 6:08 pm

    One of my favorite movies. Fernando Meirelles is great or was. If you feel like, check his previous film, Domésticas. I just don’t know if it’s easy to find in USA and now, thinking about it, I’m not sure if you can enjoy it not being brazilian.
    “The Constant Gardener” is interesting, but you already can see that Meirelles had one foot into Hollywood at this time.
    Blindness sucks.

    The only problem with Cidade de Deus is that this type of movie (violence, favelas, etc) became a stereotype of Brazil that is not entirely true.


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