Monday, August 13, 2007


CENTRAL STATION (“Central do Brasil” 1998, Walter Salles, Marcos Bernstein / Joao Emanuel Carneiro screenplay)
Dear Jesus,
You’re the worst thing to happen to me.

She sets up her table every day in a teeming subway terminal, and the ones who can’t write dictate their letters to her. The glory of this well-loved South American film begins in those faces, a blend of actors and non-actors, laying out their hopes and promises, reprimands and offerings for Dora to transcribe. “I want to send a letter to a guy who cheated me. Mr Ze Amaro. Thank you for what you did to me. I trusted you and you cheated me. You even took the keys to my apartment.” Her face too is a wonder: weathered, compassionate, attentive, as she hears their lives and carefully records each one, addresses the envelopes, collects her small fee. And at the end of the day she takes them to her humble apartment and... Throws them in the trash. Some she saves in a drawer. A few she might actually send. You can’t trust a face.

Dora ends up traveling across Brazil in search of Jesus. (No, not that Jesus. Well, maybe.) He’s the father of the small boy she has in tow, is already well on his way to being as tough as she is – five or six more decades of disappointment, loss and betrayal and he’ll give her a run for her money.

The director has stated that he is not a Christian, but he portrays people of faith with affection and respect. A truck-driving evangelist is drawn with none of the disparaging clichés you’d expect in a North American film, and when the travelers near their destination they find themselves in the midst of a sea of faces as ordinary and extraordinary as the ones we met at the outset – Catholic pilgrims who seek soul-cleansing, and perhaps a miracle, in Bom Jesus du Norte.

It’s a far different world than most North Americans know, with a passionate and strangely gaudy religion. But those faces are so human, those stories so familiar, and that God of theirs.... Well, who can say?

A small, beautiful film.


Available at Videomatica

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