Review: ‘Matraga’

A Brazilian bandit farmer sees the light, only to be faced with more violent enemies in "Matraga," the kind of film where you'd half-expect to see a miniature angel and devil do battle while perched on the protag's shoulders.

A Brazilian bandit farmer sees the light, only to be faced with more violent enemies in “Matraga,” the kind of film where you’d half-expect to see a miniature angel and devil do battle while perched on the protag’s shoulders. But newcomer Vinicius Coimbra’s suave but simplistic adaptation of the 1946 short story by literary giant Joao Guimaraes Rosa is too invested in being a feijoada Western, seasoned with regionalist touches, to really plumb the depths of Matraga’s opposing interior forces. Quadruple wins at the Rio fest should help local odds, while curio factor will inspire some sprocket-opera shootouts.

In an unspecified time, fearless rural troublemaker Augusto Matraga (Joao Miguel, adequate) is taken in by two religious outcasts (Ivan de Almeida, Teca Pereira) after being left for dead by his adversaries. He subsequently becomes a God-fearing citizen, until a powerful landowner (Jose Wilker) crosses his path. Lensing and art direction are especially elegant, though the bronzed, leathery faces and whiskey-colored firelight imbue a nostalgic, yellowed-paper quality that romanticizes the violence, to the detriment of psychological insight. Helmer Roberto Santos’ earlier “Matraga” adaptation played Cannes in 1966.

Matraga

Brazil

Production

A Prodigo Films presentation and production, in association with Orkestra Filmes, with the participation of TeleImage, Studio Quanta. Produced by Adriano Civita, Beto Gauss. Exective producer, Elisa Tolomelli. Directed by Vinicius Coimbra. Screenplay, Manuela Dias, Coimbra, based on the short story by Joao Guimaraes Rosa.

Crew

Camera (color), Lula Carvalho; editor, Alexandre Boechat; music, Sasha Amback; production designer, Moa Batsow; costume designer, Beth Filipecki. Reviewed at Rio Film Festival (competing), Oct. 14, 2011. Running time: 106 MIN.

With

Joao Miguel, Vanessa Gerbelli, Jose Wilker, Chico Anysio, Antonio Petrin, Ze Dumont, Teca Pereira, Ivan de Almeida, Irandhir Santos, Gorete Milagres, Werner Schunemann, Claudio Jaborandi, Vinicius de Oliveira, Odilon Esteves, Romulo Braga, Julio Andrade, Alexandre Zachia, Evil Reboucas, Geraldo Peninha, Glicerio Rosario Dias, Joao Dinico, Iami Lobato Silva, Melissa Isabelli, Carolina Franca.

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