Wednesday, July 29, 2015

PAULO COELHO'S BEST STORY is a pretty good one--particularly if you're already a Coelho fan

If the name Paulo Coelho sets your heart ablaze, then this may be the movie for you. If you've never heard of the guy (my spouse had not; for me, his was just a literary name I'd seen bandied about), then who knows what you may think of this odd but oddly compelling movie -- which appears to be based a good deal on the writer's own life. Well, then: Of course it ought to be his best story!

What kind of a tale is PAULO COELHO'S BEST STORY? A pretty good one that spans the now famous author in triplicate: as a very young man, during the middle-age period in which things come together in the fashion he has long desired, and finally as the aged and successful writer looking back on it all.

As written by Carolina Kotscho (on whose original screenplay Reaching for the Moon was based) and directed by Daniel Augusto (shown at left), the film flits back and forth reapeatedly between these time periods, but it does so with enough gusto and smarts that we can easily follow and enjoy things. (These changing time periods needn't have been spelled out for us as often as they are, as the actors playing the various Paulos make the decades immediately clear).

If this story -- which, as they used to say, offers pretty much everything - - is to be believed, Coelho's life was one hell of a rich and varied one. From his would-be suicide early on to careers as an actor/playwright, factory worker, songwriter/singer and more (all leading up to his first and farthest-off desire to become a writer), Coelho bounces and twists like a veritable whirligig whose years manage to encompass everything from various love stories to electroshock treatments (below) and torture under those usual and typical South American dictators.

The torture scene, in fact, is one of the film's most unusual, as this writer's gift for performance and exaggeration comes most helpfully to the fore. The Paulo of the middle years is the one we observe most often, and as played by Júlio Andrade (above and below), this multifaceted actor fearlessly brings the man to confused, compulsive life.

As we bounce around the map from location to location, Coelho comes more clearly into focus, and our questions (how did he first meet the woman he finally chooses as his mate?) are answered at last. The trip is colorful, exciting, surprising, occasionally funny and sometimes moving. If the movie never coa-lesces into greatness, it certainly provides a fascinating trip into the mind and spirit of a man who truly, desperately wanted to become a writer -- and did.

According to the end credits, Coelho is the only writer in history to be translated into more languages more often than Shakespeare. I think I shall have to read something by the guy, if only to determine just why this is.

Meanwhile, Paulo Coelho's Best Story -- from Music Box Films, in Portuguese with English subtitles and running 112 minutes -- opens this Friday, July 31, in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Portland (Oregon). In the weeks to come, Santa Fe, New Orleans, Chicago and Cleveland will also be showing the film. You can see all playdates, with cities and theaters listed, by clicking here, then clicking on the word THEATERS and scrolling down.

The film is also available simultaneously on Amazon Instant Video -- so Coelho fans across the USA should be able to access it double quick. 

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