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October 12, 2009 | by  | in Film |
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Linha de Passe


Walter Salles has a talent for capturing the loss of youthful hope. In The Motorcycle Diaries he brilliantly showed Ernesto Guevara’s transformation from hopeful medical student to the cynical revolutionary named Che. In Linha de Passe he and Daniela Thomas tell a similar emotional story of four brothers and their mother trying to make their way in modern Sao Paolo. It is a story of economic hardship killing the dreams of teenagers, but the film’s sombre tone is handled well enough to stop it becoming too preachy or too depressing.

Each of the brothers spends the film looking for a way out of their situation. Dario dreams of playing professional football and is one of the millions who keeps trying out to go pro. Denis is a bike courier with a penchant for prostitutes and petty crime, while Dinho has became a servant of Jesus. The youngest of the brothers Reginaldo spends his time riding around on buses looking for his father. The boy’s mother Cleuza, pregnant with a fifth child to another unknown father, is unable to reign in her children. She is trying to do her best but the reality of her situation often gets the better of her. The actors all give solid performances, but Kaique Jesus Santos as Reginaldo stands out, whose energy and vitality allow us to connect with a child who hasn’t yet given up hope.

In this respect Linha de Passe bears a striking similarity to Rocco and his Brothers, with both films sharing similar narrative and structural elements. These films centre around four brothers escaping the demands of an oppressive matriarch in situations of economic hardship. Passe doesn’t have the operatic grandeur of Visconti’s film, and Salles’ and most powerful moments come from their intimate portrayal of family life.

The cinematography has an energy fitting the youth of the characters. The tight close-ups of characters walking through the streets at dawn are almost lyrical in the counterpoint facial expressions against the street life of Sao Paolo. The tracking shots of Dario playing soccer puts the audience soaring on the field with him. The film’s editing is effective and strong visual juxtapositions keep the audience off balance. The cross-cutting between a wide shot of Cleuza praying and close-ups of hands in the air lead you to believe you are watching a religious festival before another wide shot tells us the hands belong to soccer supporters. The de-contextualising of familiar images is one of the film’s strong points.
Gustavo Santolalla’s haunting score proves he is one of the best composers working today, and it is nice to see he has not been seduced by Hollywood. Salles and Thomas imbue their film with such life and vitality it transcends its depressing subject matter and makes for entertaining viewing.

By Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas
With Sandra Corveloni, Kaique Jesus Santos

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