Brazilian auteur Carlos Reichenbach’s “Buccaneer Soul” presents a dense jungle of personal and political history nourished by a steady stream of references-cum-homages to literature, cinema, music, poetry and philosophy. Fragmented, freewheeling story of a Sao Paolo intellectual and his long-standing sidekick ranges from absolute lucidity to opaque symbolism to playful digression , but remains at all times a seductive, almost hallucinatory trip that should figure widely on the festival trail.
The central duo is introspective, death-obsessed Torres (Bertrand Duarte) and his more outgoing, moneyed friend Xavier (Jandir Ferrari). Encasing recollections of the chums’ adolescence and early adulthood is a party in a seedy pastry bar to launch their volume of poetry.
Flashing back to 1957, the film tracks the birth of their friendship, then moves into the ’60s to recap their first amorous encounters and visits to the local movie house. Frequent returns to the party tie past to present. The arrival of hooker Anesia (Andrea Richa) sparks a memory in which Torres accompanies her on a parental visit posing as her fiance at her bullying pimp’s request.
Reichenbach tosses in surreal elements with a liberal hand. Most bizarre passage is one in which a pianist plays Debussy at the poetry book launch, setting off a volley of image associations and memory flashes. The Chinese bar proprietor mind-travels to Hong Kong, while the publisher’s floozy dreams of hula-dancing in Hawaii.
Footage for this reportedly comes from Super-8 movies shot by Reichenbach’s father in the early ’50s. The sequence plays a little like a short film spliced into the larger frame, but despite the choppy structure throughout, the film never loses its flow.
Aficionados of cinema novo, and of Brazilian culture in general will get their teeth into Reichenbach’s cult-of-the-dead concerns, his paean to Sao Paolo and his sprawling canvas splashed with national influences.
Even more wide-ranging are his nods to international filmmaking inspirations, from jokey asides (Samuel Fuller being casually handed an Oscar he’s owed as he leaves a theater) to direct citations evoking Godard, Vigo and Mizoguchi.
Virtually a one-man show technically, the film is smartly shot and scored by Reichenbach. Music is deftly but subtly used to set a different tone with each change of period. Perfs are on-target. Pic shared main prize honors in the traditionally non-competitive Pesaro fest’s 30th anniversary feature competition.