Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '86 - Bernardo Villela ""

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Underrated '86 - Bernardo Villela

Bernardo Villela is the writer/editor of a film blog, The Movie Rat, which features movie reviews, analysis & insights on a wide range of topics. There are new or updated posts daily. He has also has experience writing prose and plays; feature and short film editing; writing and directing short films as well as television commercial copy-writing and directing. To read a more detailed biography on his other works visit his production company’s site. For his fictional writings visit his Amazon author page . For random thoughts follow him on Twitter.--------
Love Me Forever or Never (Eu Sei Que Eu Vou Te Amar) Dir. Arnaldo Jabor
What if I asked: What was the name of the film wherein, for the first time a Brazilian woman, nay, a Latin American woman won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival? The fact that few would know this make this an overlooked film. Fernanda Torres in Love Me Forever or Never is a very deserving recipient (in a tie with Barbara Sukowa).

Writer/Director Arnaldo Jabor refers to this film as a sort of psychological playground. It is a that a a minimalist drama experimenting in negative fill an quite nearly stagebound and focused on two actors. However, the intensity and proximity to the actors is a trick that only film can pull off.

Malandro (A Opera do Malandro)
I first wrote about this movie for a version of the Underrated Dramas series that Ruper Pupkin Speaks started that I spun-off on my page:
When playing national word-association most will mention football (soccer) when it comes to Brazil. I would hope they would also mention music at some point if pressed for more words. Chico Buarque is among Brazilian music’s legendary names. Here you have a film that’s a dramatization of songs he wrote, but also quite a telling and compelling drama. The images I always associated with these songs in my mind here are given form and context in a great way, incorporating period and obfuscated commentary.
This is one that I know definitely qualifies for the underrated simply because of how overlooked it is. Firstly, there is the fact of the pure lack of unavailability with regards to the title. With a surge in interest in works from Brazil in the 1980s with some of its successful films like Pixote, the rise of Sonia Braga in Hollywood and Marília Pêra in indies here, the film came here and even had a VHS release.

That’s how I saw it as a rental from Movies Unlimited. All the historical and social context about Brazil in 1941 aligning itself with the Nazi Germany against popular sentiment, is conveyed through the tale. The word malandro is a very specifically Brazilian describing a sort of wiseguy, a guy on the wrong side of the law and tracks whose not a hardened criminal and looking to have good time. It also helps that he’s often referred to that way so it becomes almost like a common noun rather than an adjective.

Not speaking Portuguese really only robs you some of the lyrics, but the music and singing are great and the meaning of the songs are well portrayed in subtitles if not poetic any longer.

It’s a wonder this film has not been restored and repackaged on Blu-ray from some repertory label. If you can track it down it’s well worth it. It’s so overlooked that even Rotten Tomatoes only had an audience score (50%) and no aggregated reviews.

Rawhead Rex (Dir. George Pavlou)
This is a film based on a Clive Barker screenplay. It rates just a 33% on Rotten Tomatoes, and I do kind of like and everyone should if only for the reason that Clive’s reaction spurred him to make Hellraiser as he saw fit and not as anyone else did.
"I said to them, 'Look, this is not a good movie,' and they said, 'Well, we know we didn't get it right but we'll get it more right next time. Write a screenplay of Rawhead Rex for us.' So, I was very new to this whole thing and I thought, we'll give it a go. It can't be as bad as Transmutations. And by the way, I don't think Rawhead Rex is as bad as Transmutations. I wrote the screenplay. I'm sure it wasn't a brilliant screenplay, it was my second screenplay, but I think it was probably marginally better than the movie. I followed the process of the book. I wrote a screenplay which was set in England, in the height Rawhead Rex of the summer, so you could really get the full drama out of this strange, dark, child-eating monster lurking in the pleasant countryside of Kent in mid-summer. They called me up and said, 'well, we're going to make the movie, but we're going to make it in Ireland, and we're going to make it in February.' So immediately, a whole counterpoint of this blazing English summer and this ravaging monster just went out of the window. They also didn't spend enough money on the special effects, so you end up with this rubber mask. I didn't actually think the design for the monster itself was bad at all, and I love the poster, but I wasn't comfortable with the picture. The picture tried, but didn't get there…

"I think, generally speaking, the movie followed the beats of the screenplay. It's just that monster movies, by and large, are made by directorial 'oomph' rather than what's in the screenplay. I'd like to think the screenplay for Rawhead Rex had the possibility of having major thrills in it. I don't think it was quite pulled off. The admirers of the movie, and actually there are quite a lot of them, like it as a sort of sixties movie made in the early eighties kind of deal. I don't think the movie is bad, it had a lot more potential. I just don't like it very much. It didn't take any risks at all. It was a very, very straight down the rope movie. Rawhead Rex as an idea, if you're going to do it, you go for broke. You kill little children in it. That's what you put on screen because that's what's in the book. The whole thing should have been visceral. But the interesting thing for me was that when I actually started to think about it I thought, 'okay, at least I know why this doesn't work.' So when we came to do Hellraiser I was determined to compensate for that. And maybe the visceral qualities of Hellraiser are exacerbated..." Clive Barker, "Rawhead Rex - The Creator", Dread, No 6, 1992

Rawhead Rex - The Creator
No, it doesn’t quite capture the tone of the story from the seminal Books of Blood, but few of those adaptations have. Many of those tales were better off waiting but there’s still a lot I like in there and it definitely not laughably bad in my estimation and consider myself among the 33% minority (if we believe that Rotten Tomatoes extends out into the real world exactly.

Gung Ho (Dir. Ron Howard)
This is a film that I saw in my high school economics class. Aside from playing the stock version of fantasy sports before the tech bubble burst (so it was really fun) we saw a few films. This was one of them and I found it quite funny. Because “underrated” is such troublesome term one of the parameters I used was the film’s Rotten Tomatoes score. A 35 certainly does rank as a film that was roundly dismissed.

Some may think of Ron Howard as a director without a signature, but I tend to see him as more the invisible hand type who is versatile, a poor man’s modern-day Michael Curtiz. Aside from that Michael Keaton stars in this movie and he automatically makes anything better, and it’s indisputably ‘80s in its political incorrectness.

Captain EO (Dir. Francis Ford Coppola)
This is not only the one short film that made the list, but it was one of my favorite film discoveries on 2013, therefore, it’s been with me the least amount of time. Here is what I wrote then:

Thankfully I went to see this wondrous relic of the ’80s before the attraction disappeared from the Walt Disney World landscape for all of eternity. In my opinion, it’s Michael Jackson’s best and most cinematic video/short film.

Aside from being highly ‘80s and a rare treat to see it was also a rare collaboration between Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas.

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