Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fele Martínez and Mariana Loureiro in Murilo Pasta's CARMO HIT THE ROAD

Road movie, character study, thriller, trave-logue, chase film, comedy, religious satire, globalization tract, family dramedy-- name a genre and it'll probably be found somewhere in CARMO HIT THE ROAD, the first full-length film from Brazilian film-maker Murilo Pasta. This lively movie is so full of vivacious characters (even its cold-blooded killers are weirdly fun) and non-stop events that the few times it pauses to rest a bit, you'll be happy to catch your breath.

Though Mr. Pasta, pictured right, has done a number of television episodes, his film is most definitely cinema. And though the poster copy compares his work to that of Leone, Fellini and Tarantino, he's his own man, and his movie is pretty much one-of-a-kind. In it, a wheel-chair-bound guy who proves a surprisingly good fighter (Fele Martínez) hooks up with a very saucy lady (the titular Carmo, played memorably by Mariana Loureiro), who is determined to get out of her small, provincial town. She might have found an easier way to do this, but bad choices are part-and-parcel of her character -- and our entertainment.

The film moves fast and furiously from beatings to escapes, family to friends, and outdoor bars (above) to indoor motels (below). There's even a wonderful -- and, I think, original -- scene concerning Carmo's mother that combines sex and religion to splendid effect: satirical, real, funny, crazy and well-performed, too. (Pasta may have found one of the better uses for our destructive tendency toward religious faith.)

His movie is sometimes violent and even bloody, but it's also full of warmth and light -- much of this from the lovely Brazilian "outback" in which he films. His characters have their dark side, which sometimes threatens to upend them (and their movie), but there is finally more good than evil in most of this crew. And those in whom the balance is tipped the opposite meet their recommended end.

Casting is terrific, right down the line -- with the two leads exceptionally riveting and full-bodied. Martínez (shown at near left), so good in so many films, from his debut in Thesis to Open Your Eyes, Talk to Her and Bad Education, appears to be coming into middle age with his little-boy quality gone, his sex appeal even stronger and his maturity full-blown. With this film, Ms.Loureiro (shown at far left and above: Remember her in Behind the Sun?) just might break into international note, she gives such a riveting, multi-facted performance. With her terrific body and expressive face with its dark, often sullen look, she can suddenly break into a joyful smile that could win over even a old curmudgeon like me.

Conventional morality may get sliced and diced in the proceedings on view, but since Carmo takes place in Brazil, are we surprised? The question of where the movie is going -- both symbolically and literally -- lingers throughout. And when Pasta provides his some-what long but extraordinarily beautiful visual finale, we have our answer. This movie is a "get-away," in several senses of the word.

Carmo Hit the Road from First Run Features and running 100 minutes, opens this Friday, October 15, in New York City at the Quad Cinema.  You can find further playdates here.

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