Second Time Around

The Big City
In the exhilarating opening scenes of this edgy 1966 film by Brazil's Carlos Diegues, a young woman (Anecy Rocha) arrives in Rio de Janeiro from the provinces and is taken in tow by a madcap impresario, Calunga, given to directly addressing the film audience on the joys of urban life. "I'll give you a river of music and tears but not oblivion!" he cries as he races down the street, accompanied by a blast of movie music. Our handsome tour guide overwhelms Rocha with strawberries and flowers but to no avail -- her heart is set on a moody gangster given to depressed musings like, "For us, death," and, "It's always late."

Diegues was a founding member of the Cinema N™vo movement, whose motto, "An idea in your head and a camera in hand," perfectly captures the group's mix of political critique and playful approach to the medium of film. The sights and sounds of slums and open squares flood The Big City as Diegues employs a full battery of nouvelle vague tricks (sudden overhead shots, freeze frames, overexposure, sarcastically deployed music) to tell his tale and score points against Rio's Europeanized elite, who employ Rocha as a maid. The buoyant Calunga too is sucked into the romantic melodrama, and his final fate is more disturbing than that of the doomed couple: Movie romance is no match for wily government operatives and fascist boyfriends. The Big City is a choice example of the many Cinema N™vo films on view at the Pacific Film Archive's ongoing series of Brazilian films.

-- Gregg Rickman

The Big City screens Friday, Jan. 15, at 7:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive, 2625 Durant (at College), Berkeley. Admission is $6; call (510) 642-1124.

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