IIFF 2010: Paulista


To help you narrow down the Indy Film Fest selection, we've chosen five films in the international category to recommend. Here's one of those five...

Paulista (Quanto Dura o Amor?)

Director: Roberto Moreira

Cast: Silvia Lourenco, Danni Carlos, Paulo Vilhena and Maria Spinelli

Brazil, 82 mins.

(Portuguese with English subtitles)

Residents of Sao Paulo, Brazil call themselves Paulistas, hence the title of this Brazilian feature that begins with the migration of an aspiring actress from the hinterlands to the city, where she hopes to elevate her career.

Upon her arrival, Marina is able to share an apartment with a lawyer named Suzana. The living arrangement is both convenient for the characters and the plot, as this connection sets in motion a sequence of subplots concerning the varied relationships of Marina, Suzana and characters they encounter in their building and through work.

While the city and film's scope are panoramic, director Roberto Moreira narrows the plot on three interpersonal entanglements and makes them the story's focus. There is Marina's affair with a charismatically self-destructive female cabaret singer, a woman "mad, bad and dangerous to know." Suzanna's budding love affair with a fellow lawyer, complicated by Suzana's having had a sex change operation and the impact this revelation could bring to their future together. And then there's neighbor Jay, a poet romantically obsessed with a prostitute.

In other hands, these three characters and their complicated relationships might seem cliched or even melodramatic. But here, Moreira adroitly interweaves these various threads, letting events unfold through his characters' behavior. Overarching everything is perhaps the most important character of all, Sao Paulo. Suzana's apartment offers a breathtaking view of the city from above, a feast of light and motion that becomes harder to navigate once Moreira brings his characters to ground level, where desires play themselves out and emotions must be confronted.

The film's pace is brisk without relying too heavily on stereotypical short cuts. Even when certain characters, like the chanteuse, teeter on the formulaic, Moreira manages to provide enough detail to give added dimension to an otherwise predictable fate. In this case, for example, the singer's power is underscored by the fact the music she performs - melancholy samba arrangements of American pop songs - is, in itself, worth the price of admission and will have you downloading the soundtrack (which also features songs by Radiohead) as soon as you're able to find it on iTunes.

Bottom line: Keenly observed characters, portrayed with empathy against a teeming, vibrant urban backdrop invest Paulista with a memorable air of authenticity.


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