Barravento (Glauber Rocha / Brazil, 1962):

The zealous shit-stirrer returning to his Bahia home might be Glauber Rocha himself, machete in one hand and Godard’s review of Black Orpheus in the other. Eisenstein (by way of Emilio Fernandez) is the major influence, "the passivity of those who expect a godly kingdom" the main target. Tropical approximations of La Terra Trema comprise the setting, the white-suited activist (Antonio Pitanga) arrives from the city so bursting with radical ideas that authorities have to come up with a new expression: "elemento subversivo." Overflowing with glistening chiaroscuro and blasting sunlight, the beachfront village is no idyll but rather a self-devouring circle of ignorance and exploitation, its cracks papered over with continuous candomblé pirouettes. (The Sea Goddess and the Boss-Man are roughly on the same pedestal.) Progress and awareness become a matter of sabotage, the fishermen’s great nets are slashed while the temptress (Luiza Maranhão) seduces the callow stud (Aldo Teixeira) whose purity is said to protect the community. The turning wind strikes, the agitator gets to the central revelation ("The master is a slave!"). The first of Rocha’s shuddering lands in anguish, half-celebrating, half-purging its African-Brazilian panorama via an exhaustive panoply of Kino-fists. Choreographed neo-realism and cock-eyed montage (lovemaking by the shore, sacrificial chicken blood), utter contempt for any pictorialism that hasn’t been grained and defaced, a free-floating soundtrack of chants, drumbeats and scratches -- political idleness as bogus paradise, cinema as necessary cyclone. Subsequently disowned by the filmmaker (too much "straight" narrative?), but nonetheless an essential bedrock for his demolishing camera-eye. With Lucy de Carvalho and Lidio Silva. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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