Tuesday, July 24, 2018

From Brazil comes a genre bending/busting marvel: Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra's "family" film, GOOD MANNERS

Hugely feted and probably fated to go down in cinema history as one of the great love stories/family films/horror films -- yes, there are not so many of these! -- the Brazilian movie, GOOD MANNERS (As Boas Maneiras), is like nothing you've so far seen.

When TrustMovies was a teenager back in the late 1950s and especially in love with werewolf movies, he always imagined that someone would make a werewolf love story that could bring an audience not simply to fear, but to tears and maybe even a weird kind of joy. The South Koreans managed this to an extent with their lovely A Werewolf Boy back in 2012, and now, finally, the movie-making team of Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra (shown above, left and right, respectively) have gone even deeper and more thoroughly into genre-jumping/mashing to bring us a film that is at once, as the quote on the poster at top makes clear, a fairy tale/horror movie/romance/musical/social parable that works beautifully in every single one of those genres, even as it becomes, at last, something sui generis and quite amazing.

Good Manners is so good, in fact, that it rather sneaks up on you, growing better and stronger as it moves along until its final moment that should leave you as stunned and moved as any genre film you'll have viewed.

Low-budget, independent movies -- let alone genre jumpers -- rarely make for Oscar bait, which is a shame in itself. Even more so when the lead performance in one of those films is as full, rich and deep as is that of Isabél Zuaa (above), who plays the nanny, cook, cleaning woman, friend and finally lover to the pregnant woman (Marjorie Estiano, below) who hires her,

and then becomes the surrogate mother to the shape-shifter at the core of the film, the beautiful and gifted young actor, below, who bears the too-perfect moniker of Miguel Lobo (could that be his actual name?).

Though I hadn't yet realized it as a teenager who would soon identify as gay and eventually bisexual, the strong pull that these movies about "the other (in whatever form)" had on me came from the idea that one could be punished and destroyed for being different, even though one had no control over that difference.

Difference is paramount in Good Manners, whether it is seen via skin color, class, religion, or finally species. How the filmmaking duo brings this to the fore by melding their genres so skillfully is impressive enough; that they also manage to bring the emotional content home so strongly is even more so. Oh -- and did I mention how lovely the songs are?

One of the movie's odd strengths comes from its use of children -- as both aggressor and victims. These scene are as surprising, awful and moving as any I can recall in the genre, and while they do involve some bloodshed, the filmmakers never rub our noses in it. They show what they must and let our mind and heart do the rest. How well they also use some of the genre cliches -- the aroused mob of townspeople on the march to destroy Frankenstein and his monster -- is also admirable.

Good Manners is utterly transgressive in so many ways, and yet it is also one of the sweetest, kindest examples of the horror genre imaginable. The combination proves bracing and the movie -- together with its lead performance from Ms Zuaa (above right) -- unmissable.

From Distrib Films US and running a surprisingly lengthy 135 minutes (not one of which you'd want to part with, post viewing), the film opens theatrically in New York City this Friday, July 27, at the IFC Center and on August 17 in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Royal. Elsewhere? Sure hope so, but if not, the film will surely reach DVD and digital eventually.

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