Richard Blackstone

Debuting helmer Jorge Cramez makes the cliched storyline more appealing than it sounds, by injecting some ambiguity into the narrative.

Smalltown teen rebels without a cause flirt with death to relieve the tedium of their lives in Portuguese meller “The Golden Helmet.” Debuting helmer Jorge Cramez makes the cliched storyline — bad-boy biker and troubled girl in a possibly redemptive relationship — more appealing than it sounds, by injecting some ambiguity into the narrative. High-energy playing by extremely photogenic leading thesps should draw a youth audience in Portuguese hardtops and help pic tool into other fests.

Insolent motorcycle daredevil Jota (Eduardo Frazao), owner of the eponymous helmet, can’t resist picking a fight, be it at school or in the local pool hall. He’s part of a biker gang that gathers by night at a crossroads in the dark hills to play chicken with passing cars. This dangerous activity leads to a fatal accident seen under the opening credits.

Jota finally finds something to care about when he meets Margarida (Ana Moreira), daughter of the high school’s pompous chemistry teacher, Trindade (Rogerio Samora). An anorexic recently released from hospital, Margarida has a death wish of her own that seems to vanish when she’s with Jota.

The pair’s tender attraction is almost wordless and, for a Euro film, surprisingly chaste, without even a kiss. But when Trindade discovers the relationship, he forbids it, with the implication that father and daughter share a troubling secret.

As befits melodrama, perfs are a mix of realism and stylization, although Samora as Margarida’s father seems a bit stilted. Soundtrack is mostly ambient sound, but music ranging from rock to classic to techno is used to express the characters’ emotional state in key scenes. Other tech credits are fine.

The Golden Helmet

Portugal

Production

A Clap Filmes presentation, in association with MC/ICAM, RTP. (International sales: Madfilmes, Lisbon.) Produced by Paulo Branco. Directed by Jorge Cramez. Screenplay, Carlos Mota, Rui Catalao.

Crew

Camera (color), Ines Carvalho; editor, Jaime Freitas; art director, Stephen Malho; costume designer, Yara Jeronimo; sound (Dolby Digital), Ricardo Leal, Carlos Mota, Miguel Martins; assistant director, Paulo Belem. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (competing), Aug. 3, 2007. Running time: 83 MIN.

With

Eduardo Frazao, Ana Moreira, Rogerio Samora, Alexandre Pinto.
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