Review: ‘A Terceira Margem Do Rio; The Third Bank of the River’

Cinema Novo veteran Nelson Pereira Dos Santos is back with a strange, difficult fantasy in which he seems to be attacking low moral values in Brazilian society. But the message is heavily coated inside a strange story about a child who performs miracles, and it seems unlikely to arouse much interest outside Latin territories.

Cinema Novo veteran Nelson Pereira Dos Santos is back with a strange, difficult fantasy in which he seems to be attacking low moral values in Brazilian society. But the message is heavily coated inside a strange story about a child who performs miracles, and it seems unlikely to arouse much interest outside Latin territories.

Part of the problem is the screenplay, which has been derived from five short stories — it doesn’t feel fully cohesive, nor is the film as visually exciting as the director’s work used to be. Indeed, the images are surprisingly flat.

Pic opens by a river. A man says farewell to his wife and two children and rows out into the stream, the wife ordering him not to return. But the son, Liojorge, leaves food for his father every night in a secret place by the river, and every morning the food is gone. Years go by. The daughter marries and moves to the city.

One day, Liojorge follows a stray cow, which leads him to the home of beautiful Alva, whom he quickly marries. On his wedding day, he “introduces” his bride to his unseen father by the river bank. A year later, Liojorge and Alva have a daughter, and when the child gets to be about six, they discover she can perform miracles, such as breaking a drought by wishing for rain, or getting herself the cookies she wants. A quartet of gangsters comes by, and one of them seems to be attracted to Alva. Liojorge decides to move his family to the city in case of trouble.

In the slums of Brasilia, the precocious child continues her miracles, and soon is known as the Little Saint. But the gangster kidnaps Alva, and Liojorge is forced to take extreme measures to retrieve his wife. The film ends on the same note of mystery with which it began, but by fadeout, it hardly seems as though the writer/director has taken the viewer on an inspiring journey.

No doubt there are political and social allusions hidden in the film that will mean more to the Brazilian viewer, but for international audiences, this is a rather puzzling fantasy without a satisfactory resolution. Film was lensed a couple of years ago, but only bowed in Brazil late last year.

Tech credits are adequate, with a good music score by Milton Nascimento. There’s a very prominent example of product placement as a brand of beer is heavily promoted in a barroom scene.

A Terceira Margem Do Rio; The Third Bank of the River

Production

A Regina Filmes production, in association with the Centre of Cultural and Educational Production (Brasilia)/Institute of Brazilian Art and Culture/Ministry of Culture (Cinema). Produced by Ney Sant'Anna, Dora Sverner. Directed, written by Nelson Pereira Dos Santos, based on five stories by Joao Guimaraes Rosa.

Crew

Camera (color), Gilberto Azevedo, Fernando Duarte; editors, Carlos Alberto Camuirano, Luelane Correa; music, Milton Nascimento; production design, Jurandir Oliveira; sound, Chico Bororo; assistant director, Waldir Onofre. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (competing), Feb. 20, 1994. Running time: 98 MIN.

With

Liojorge ... Ilya Sao Paulo Alva ... Sonjia Saurin Mother ... Maria Ribeiro Nhinhinaha ... Barbara Brandt Rigerio ... Chico Diaz Rosario ... Mariane Vicentini Herculinao Dagobe ... Henrique Rovira
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