Lower City (Cidade Baixa) is a gutsy and challenging film in the vein of City of
Producer Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries, Central Station), director Sérgio Machado and writer Karim Ainouz are regular collaborators. Machado wrote for Ainouz’s Madame Sata (2002), which had a limited release in
Right from the start, sex is a confronting element of Lower City, as we follow the exploits of a lascivious young woman, Karinna (Alice Braga). She is unnervingly blasé about selling herself in exchange for a ride with a pair of men, Deco (Lázaro Ramos) and Naldinho (Wagner Moura) on their boat to
Deco and Naldinho are lifelong friends and strugglers. We get glimpses into their questionable background. One is attempting to reform while the other appears to be sinking into bad habits. This is not their only conflict. While they profess their brotherly love for each other, jealously grows over each man’s sexual interest in Karinna.
Deco and Naldinho are of different races. An early scene of a cock fight between a black and a white bird seems prophetic. The deterioration of their relationship was a major focus of the story, and it was well detailed with subtlety. Much of it was by body language such as glaring looks rather than the spoken word. The actors’ performances were all passionate, credible and their characters well-developed and interesting. The film’s depiction of the darker side of a society was a fresh change to the homogenous, polished middle-class of
The film seemed to struggle slightly at times with continuity and editing but remained emotionally gripping throughout. The camera work was mostly hand-held and I found it a bit jolting at times. The exotic music – a sort of neo-Afro-jazz – was a terrific blend of traditional and contemporary and was used to very good effect.
There was a satisfying level of ambiguity in the film, both in motives and the finale. We are not handed everything on a plate for immediate consumption, so we can come out of the cinema ruminating about the experience.
Eroticism is a significant but incidental element in the film, used as a vehicle for revealing aspects of the characters, and how destructive it can be to a relationship. While love triangles are not a new subject, its depiction in
Dir: Sérgio Machado Rating: R Duration: 98 min Genre: drama Language: Portuguese Country: Brazil Release: 30/11/06, limited Dist: Madman Films Prod Co: VideoFilmes Prod: Mauricio Andrade Ramos, Walter Salles Scr: Sérgio Machado, Karim Ainouz Sound Des: Leandro Lima, Rômulo Drummond Phot: Toca Seabra Ed: Isabela Monteiro de Castro Prod Des: Marcos Pedroso Mus: Carlinhos Brown, Beto Villares Cast: Lázaro Ramos, Wagner Moura, Alice Braga, José Dumont
Official website IMDB