You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Cinema, Aspirin And Vultures

Marcelo Gomes makes an impressive if sober feature helming debut in "Cinema, Aspirin and Vultures," set in Brazil's desert-like sertao in 1942 as the country prepares to enter war against the Axis. Film's pared-down look has a stylish simplicity that should make it a contender for arthouse pickup, though auds will need to get into its minimalist rhythm.

Johann - Peter Ketnath Ranulpho - Joao Miguel

Marcelo Gomes makes an impressive if sober feature helming debut in “Cinema, Aspirin and Vultures,” set in Brazil’s desert-like sertao in 1942 as the country prepares to enter war against the Axis. The friendship that springs up between two young men, one German and the other Brazilian, is etched with a quiet delicacy that deepens to touch their souls. Film’s pared-down look has a stylish simplicity that should make it a contender for arthouse pickup, though auds will need to get into its minimalist rhythm.

Gomes, who co-scripted the successful “Madame Sata” with director Karim Ainouz and Sergio Machado (present at Cannes with his own feature bow, “Lower City”), has the least flashy, least attention-grabbing approach to directing of the trio. Here the focus is on slowly but surely building a portrait of two men urged on by a restless desire to experience life. Rather charmingly, the tale does have its roots in reality, since it was told to Gomes by his grandfather Ranulpho.

Handsome Johann (Peter Ketnath) drives his truck through the wilderness, giving lifts to locals as he goes. He fled Germany to escape the war and has been driving around the scorching outbacks of Brazil for months. When he reaches a town, he sets up a movie projector and shows his fascinated audience commercials for the revolutionary new medicine he’s peddling: aspirin. After the show, they flock to buy the stuff.

One day he gives a ride to sour, sharp-tongued Ranulpho, who offers to be Johann’s projectionist and assistant. At first their temperaments seem worlds apart. While Johann sleeps under the stars to open his mind and views his nomadic life as an interesting adventure, the Brazilian grumbles about what a miserable backwater he was born into. His only thought is to go to Rio.

A long drought has impoverished the area, forcing hordes of homeless refugees to head for plantations along the Amazon, which are producing rubber for the U.S. The world beyond Brazil looks equally bleak. The radio talks about the blood-drenched battlegrounds of Europe, and the war Johann has been trying to outrun begins catching up with him even in this remote hinterland.

While in a larger town, he is served notice that he must either return to Germany or surrender himself to a concentration camp in Sao Paulo. The film ends with his decision, which sends the characters out to chase down their individual destinies.

The self-possessed Ketnath, a stage and television actor, makes an eye-catching screen bow as a freedom-loving pacifist haunted by the prospect of killing and dying on a battlefield. Miguel, who also comes from the stage, brings a droll note of humor to the role of the pessimistic Ranulpho, a character who embodies the hard times Brazilians in the Northeast were living through, but also of their will to find personal happiness.

Tyro cinematographer Mauro Pinheiro creates a world of whited-out, over-exposed scenes that emphasize the heat and burning sun of the sertao, the region where Glauber Rocha shot his films. The scrubby desert, full of poisonous snakes and insects and vultures, plays a leading role in this leisurely paced story. Tomas Alves de Souza’s score blends in with plentiful Brazilian music from the ’30s and ’40s.

Cinema, Aspirin And Vultures


Production: A Rec Produtores Associados/Dezenove Som e Imagens production. (International sales: Funny Balloons, Paris.) Produced by Sara Silveira, Maria Ionescu, Joao Vieira Jr. Directed by Marcelo Gomes. Screenplay, Gomes, Paulo Calda, Karim Ainouz.

Crew: Camera (color), Mauro Pinheiro; editor, Karen Harley; music, Tomas Alves de Souza; production designer, Marcos Pedroso; costume designer, Beto Normal; sound (Dolby Digital), Marcio Camara; associate producer, Karim Ainouz. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard), May 17, 2005. Running time: 99 MIN.

With: Johann - Peter Ketnath Ranulpho - Joao MiguelWith: Fabiana Pirro, Jose Leite, Zezita Matos, Hermila Guedes, Oswaldo Mil, Veronica Cavalcanti, Mano Fialho.

More Film

  • dolittle-DRD_Tsr1Sht_1011_RGB_4_rgb-1

    Robert Downey Jr. Embarks on Perilous Journey in First 'Dolittle' Trailer (Watch)

    Robert Downey Jr. is setting sail with some furry friends in the first trailer for “Dolittle,” Universal Pictures’ reimagining of the classic story about a man who could speak to animals. “We have no choice but to embark on this perilous journey,” he says. Set to a rendition of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” [...]

  • Parasite

    Bong Joon Ho's 'Parasite' Posts Powerful Opening in North America

    Bong Joon-Ho’s dark comedy “Parasite,” which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, has launched with a spectacular $376,264 at three U.S. theaters.  Neon opened “Parasite” at the The Landmark and Arclight Hollywood in Los Angeles and at the IFC Center in New York, where it broke the opening record set by 2014’s “Boyhood.” Its per-screen average [...]

  • Joker Movie

    'Joker' Dominates International Box Office With $124 Million

    “Joker” is showing impressive traction internationally with a second weekend of $123.7 million on 24,149 screens in 79 markets — a holdover decline of just 29%. Joaquin Phoenix’s psychological thriller has totaled $351.2 million outside North America after only 12 days in release. And with $192 million in domestic grosses, “Joker” has now topped $543 [...]

  • Joker

    'Joker' Remains Box Office Ruler With $55 Million

    Joaquin Phoenix is king of the North American box office once again as “Joker” scores an easy victory in its second weekend with $55 million at 4,374 sites. “Joker” dominated a trio of new entries with animated comedy “The Addams Family” leading the rest of pack with $30.3 million at 4,007 venues, topping forecasts. Will [...]

  • French director Bertrand Tavernier attends the

    Bertrand Tavernier on Coppola, Scorsese, Cayatte, Cinema’s Bright Future

    Veteran French director Bertrand Tavernier (“Round Midnight”) – president and director of the Institut Lumière and Lumière Festival, which he co-manages with Cannes’ Thierry Frémaux – has played a pivotal role in restoring classic French films and defending the importance of French directors, such as Claude Autant Lara, Henri Decoin and André Cayatte, who were [...]

  • 'Philharmonia'

    French Series 'Philharmonia' Sells to the U.K., the U.S. and Australia (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Philharmonia,” a French thriller series set in the world of a national orchestra, has been acquired in English-speaking territories from Lagardere Studios Distribution. “Philharmonia,” which was created and co-written by Marine Gacem, has been acquired by First Look Media’s Topic for SVOD rights in the U.S., and Walter Presents for the U.K. and Australia. “Philharmonia” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content