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*** Official "CITY OF GOD" Review Thread


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#1 of 10 OFFLINE   Colin-H

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Posted January 18 2003 - 04:03 PM

Fernando Meirelles’ Cidade de Deus (City of God) slides you effortlessly into the world of this Rio de Janeiro slum. The narrative hops gracefully between two eras: the ’60s, where we see the protagonists as wide-eyed children, and the drug-heavy ’70s–early ’80s. Cidade is a violent movie, but its success lies in its realism. We follow the life of the slum through Rocket, and we grow and harden with him. The first time we see a prepubescent boy lift a gun, it’s heart-wrenching. The second time, it’s shocking. The third time, we are almost numb to it. The children in the slum want only to break free from their impoverished existence, and because of that, we are at least mildly sympathetic with even the most violent thugs, including the slum’s self-anointed king, Li’l Zé. This movie provokes its audience to question hope and to question happiness. Is life as a fish-seller better than death as a drug lord? ‡‡‡‡
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#2 of 10 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted January 18 2003 - 04:36 PM

This thread is now the Official Review Thread for "City of God". Please post all HTF member reviews in this thread.

Any other comments, links to other reviews, or discussion items will be deleted from this thread without warning!

If you need to discuss those type of issues then I have designated an Official Discussion Thread.



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#3 of 10 OFFLINE   Patrick Sun

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Posted March 01 2003 - 11:39 AM

Finally made it to see "City of God". I had to go about 20+ miles to the only theater that was playing this film "near" me. The trip was more that worth it.

I don't think there's a single wasted frame in this film, the narrative is compelling, tight, and flat out engrossing as hell. I simply forgot about the running time of the film because I found myself caught up in the story wholeheartedly, and could not look away from the screen one second.

The film, while being over 130 minutes long, moves quickly and provides entertaining background vignettes of the gaggle of characters that come in and out of the story. There was, for me, plenty of black comedy all throughout the film, and it is able to keep the more serious tone of the material at hand, and then sprinkle in the slice of life comedic moments that display human nature rather primally throughout the film.

The film is not for the faint of heart, and there quite a bit of violence and gunplay, but the story is well told and riveting. If you have the stomach for the violence, you will be rewarded with a rich, viewing experience that you'll not forget for a long time to come.

I give it 4 stars, or a grade of A.
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#4 of 10 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted March 01 2003 - 02:54 PM

Like so many limited-release films, this one has been reviewed in the 2003 Foreign, Alternative and Independent Films thread.

By Lew Crippen:
Quote:
It opened in Dallas this last week. My wife and I saw it Saturday and were both completely blown away. The film takes place (almost) completely in the favelas of Rio (and one in particular, that was orgionaly a government housing project designed to relocate people out of the favelas.

The film is uncompromising in its presentation of its subject matter and it is particularly interesting to have seen this so soon after ‘Gangs of New York’.

The cinematography is brilliant right from the beginning to the end, as it changes to match the ever increasing level of violence as the story progresses. The camera moves are smooth and fluid at the beginning, become hand held and jumpy part way through and towards the end are jerky and frequently out of focus. Interestingly, the beauty of Rio is never used as a backdrop in this film—a couple of shots on a beach (which could well be anywhere) and you can see ‘Sugerloaf’ in the skyline at night a couple of times—but noting glamorous.

Music, as it should, plays an important part of the movie, but it is not (for the most part) a seductive samba soundtrack, but frequently harsh, driving music matching the pace of the film.

This film grips you from the very start and never lets go as you are swept along in a tide of drugs and violence. Along the way we get to know many characters well and many more casually—everyone is well defined, even when they are on the screen for a brief period. Along the way we are given enough humor (and know the characters well enough) that we don’t turn from the screen as the violence escalates, but, rather choose to watch everything closely so that we miss nothing.

A brilliant film.
By Michael Reuben:

Quote:
I don't have much to add to what's been said in numerous published reviews. The film is thoroughly engrossing, tossing you back and forth between the exhilaration of its technique and the despair of the circumstances it portrays. In some ways it reminded me of Goodfellas, except that Goodfellas took place in an ordered society. In City of God, the only rule is that there's always a more dangerous psychopath ready to take down the one that's currently on top. Long before the film reaches its bleak conclusion, it's become clear that the murders, beatings and rapes occurring almost randomly throughout the film have little or no purpose; it's just what people do.

The film is a marvel of storytelling technique. It juggles a lot of characters, played by different actors in different eras, and it uses every trick in the book -- voiceover narration, flashback, freeze-frame, you name it -- to keep the viewer anchored in the story. Just when you're starting to have trouble remembering who did what that led us to this point, the film slips you a little reminder. I suspect repeat viewings will reveal even greater depth, and I'm looking forward to it.
By Brook K:

Quote:
City of God is also a powerful film. I could not help but be affected by seeing so many people who's lives offer only a choice of crime, violence, or grinding hopeless poverty. Seeing gangs of gun-toting 10-12 year olds is particularly disturbing. But I liked that the film did not offer only this single viewpoint. The characters had their moments of happiness and several saw that their were alternatives to the hellish situations in their lives.

I did feel the film stumbled toward's it's final act. For the most part the filmmakers give us a vibrant, highly-charged fractured narrative. But it grinds the forward momentum to a halt when it tells the story of Rocket's (the main character) employment. While this proves to be important information for us, it should have come at a different place in the story or have been told faster. Instead these scenes stop the film just as things REALLY begin to spiral out of control.

Up until that moment it was a sure top 10 for me, I was sceptical of the Goodfellas comparisons but ended up agreeing with them. The film is sad and thrilling, empathic and brutal. As is, City of God remains a very fine film that is well worth taking the time to seek out.

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#5 of 10 OFFLINE   Jason Seaver

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Posted March 01 2003 - 03:19 PM

Or in the 2001 Alterna-Thread. (Third review in that post; I saw four movies that day at the festival)
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#6 of 10 OFFLINE   Ravi K

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Posted March 02 2003 - 11:34 AM

I loved this movie. It's a fascinating portrayal of these thugs who get started down this path so early in life. Someone mentioned that they grew numb to the violence. I found myself becoming somewhat numb to it as well. That shows that the director knew how to get the audience into that world and not merely have us as observers. The handheld camerawork also helped to immerse me in the chaotic, violent city.
 

#7 of 10 OFFLINE   Rob Willey

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Posted March 12 2003 - 09:07 PM

Besides the incredible cinematography, I was especially impressed with the non-linear storylines that make up the screenplay.

Highest recommendation.

Rob
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#8 of 10 OFFLINE   Seth Paxton

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Posted March 20 2003 - 11:22 AM

repost of the review I put in the 2003 films thread for a must-see film

City of God
10 of 10

#1 film of the year till something really awesome steps up to the plate, and I can imagine that such a film might not come out this year, including ROTKing.

Goodfellas for the child gangs of Rio slums, spiced with touches from Pulp Fiction and Trainspotting. The film makes the most of the photographer angle of the film's narrator. Titles for "chapters" in the film also are highly effective. The film has fun in jumping back and forth in time, though that is not quite how the film resembles Pulp. That comes more from it's method of stopping to say "hey, let me tell you this individual's story" as well as the fact that so many actions and lives end up interrelating and interacting in a multitude of twists and turns driven mostly by violent power plays.

All the while the greatest shock might be in how quickly the audience comes to accept this gangland behavior from teens or even younger. The most depressing aspect is that we are seeing true stories of children's lives in Rio.

The film grabs you with Soviet Montage style editing to open the film, goes into a Bullet-time style circling shot shortly after that, and then into a Goodfellas style freeze and "let me tell you where this all began" that leaves you thinking of Ray Liotta telling us stories of mailmen thrown into ovens. And then it delivers on all the promises that diversely vibrant opening makes.

I left thinking "wow, did I just see an amazing flick".

PS - let me add that I'm a sucker for music used well within a film, and this one shares that aspect with the previously mentioned Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction, and Trainspotting as well. All varieties of music and each really drives the scene it is in. Never has "Kung Fu Fighting" exuded such real tension than in this film (and you thought Sister Christian was used well in Boogie Nights). As that song explodes into the soundtrack, so too does the tension of the moment burst forth.

#9 of 10 OFFLINE   MikeRS

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Posted March 21 2003 - 05:23 AM

Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

My number 2 film this year (after IRREVERSIBLE).


Wow! This film definitely deserves to sit at the table with GOODFELLAS. For it's consistently intoxicating narrative, it's unflinching look at a lifestyle through distinct decades, the sheer wallop of the filmmmaking. The movie takes its name from a housing project created outside Rio de Janeiro in the 1960's, which became incredibly ferocious during gang conflicts in the 70's and 80's. It all ends up feeling quite epic by the closing credits, because of just how rich each depiction of time and space is. So slick and sly is the director's grasp of time and history, it becomes an almost playful sleight of hand. From beginning to end, you feel a director in complete control of his subject matter. Heck, the visual storytelling alone is so pure and true (laserbeam-like in it's precision), you don't even need to read the subtitles to understand what's going on. Just an amazing narrative, both affecting and entertaining in equal measure. This film is alive.

Performance are fantastic, especially Leandro Firmino da Hora's L'il Zé. Mean SOB, but incredibly human and 3-dimensional too. Also, the film's portrayal of *kids* is incredibly haunting, in more ways than one.

This film shits on what passes for narrative in Hollywood cinema these days ( I'm looking at you, Daredevil Posted Image ). I implore all to check it out.

#10 of 10 OFFLINE   Edwin Pereyra

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Posted April 10 2003 - 09:20 AM

I finally saw this film last night and having not read any of the reviews posted here, I’ll offer these quick thoughts:

Director Fernando Meirelles tells a gripping story of a poor and very dangerous place in Rio de Janeiro riddled with gangs, drugs and guns along with its lost and misguided souls - almost often starting at a very young and tender age for their survival. The results, as one can deduce, are very tragic.

Meirelles’ style along with use of intersecting and tangential narratives lends City Of God a sense of topicality and urgency. His vibrant cast gives the film its raw power and energy.

This is the first film of 2003 of substance and of equal importance.

~Edwin
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