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Volume 34
Issue 34
 
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Lower City is a sexy Brazilian Jules & Jim meets Y Tu Mama Tambien
Lower City is a sexy Brazilian Jules & Jim meets Y Tu Mama Tambien
by Derich Mantonela - SGN A&E Writer

Film: Opens Friday at the Varsity

To the time-honored realm of cinematic three-ways add "Lower City," a sexy Brazilian "Jules & Jim" meets "Y Tu Mama Tambien."

Set on the semi-tropical, rough-and-tumble Bahia coast, "Lower City" stars a trio of attractive young actors, Wagner Moura as Naldinho, Lazaro Ramos as Deco (the lone Black among the three, best known for his starring role in Madame Sata), and Alice Braga (niece of Sonia) as Karinna.

Naldinho and Deco, plying a modest trade with their small cargo boat, are best buddies whose relationship (they are Brazilians, after all!) has a playfully and tenderly affectionate, homoerotic undertone.

Into the mix add Karinna, an explosively alluring stripper/hooker who, despite her efforts to avoid doing so, soon plunges the boys' relationship into the throes of sexual jealousy and rivalry.

Against a backdrop of local poverty, crime, drugs and social instability, the boys' friendship stood as a counterpoint of love and loyalty (Naldinho defends Deco against a local racist, in a scene which reveals that color-based bigotry is very much alive and well in Brazil). Their seemingly rock-solid relationship proves all too fragile, however, undermined by the most basic of human compulsions, sex, as pussy skews the boys' sentiments, judgment, and morality.

First-time feature director/co-writer Sergio Machado (the film's big "name" is producer Walter Salles, director of "Central Station," who also had a hand in "Motorcycle Diaries" & "Tambien") does a good job of setting up the ménage-a-trois and the film's cultural ambiance, but he has almost nothing new to add to the genre nor does he offer a satisfying or revealing resolution. The characters come across as sexy, two-dimensional symbols rather than as developed (simple yet complex) humans.

"Lower City" is rich in local color and teases us with its possibilities, but it is low in original insight and depth and leaves us frustrated and feeling empty, in a place which after all seems too sadly familiar.

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