Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Futuro Beach (Praia do Futuro)

FUTURO BEACH (Praia do Futuro)               B+                        
Brazil  Germany  (106 mi)  2014  ‘Scope  d:  Karim Aïnouz      Official site      

Aïnouz directed the Chicago Film Festival Gold Hugo 1st Place prize winner MADAME SATÃ in 2002, a film with one of the best closing credit sequences of any film seen that year, while this has one of the most brilliant opening sequences, set to bright colors and the reckless punk sounds of Suicide - Ghost Rider (1977) - YouTube (2:34), where a pair of German motorcycle riders traverse a Brazilian beachfront landscape of giant sand dunes, racing across the crowded beach, throwing off their clothes and rushing into the ocean.  Only one survives, however, as the other gets caught in the ferocious riptides, where the desperate attempts by lifeguard Donato (Wagner Moura) fail to save the drowning man.  Told in three chapters, opening with The Drowner's Embrace, the film has a stark beauty in the gorgeous outdoor cinematography by Ali Olay Gözkaya featuring the spectacular allure of one of the best Brazilian beaches in the Northeastern region of Fortaleza, noted for their high winds, making it especially dangerous, capturing the long expanse of pristine coastline filled with swimmers, lounge chairs, kiosks, restaurants, showers, and casual beach lounges, offering bits of insight into the beach culture through a series of group calisthenics exercises performed in the sand and ocean by the lifeguards, reminiscent of the body sculpture and poetic grace of Claire Denis in Beau Travail (1999).  Donato has a close relationship with his mother and adoring little brother Ayrton who loves to imagine himself as a super hero, going through the moves, playing imaginary games on the beach with his big brother.  Heavy with guilt, still shaken from the experience of his first death while on patrol, Donato meets with the survivor, Konrad (Clemens Schick), a former soldier who owns a motorcycle repair shop in Berlin, where their grief is shared through robust sexual interludes, spending their days together searching for the missing body.  The pace of the film slows considerably as the days grow longer and more frustrating when the body can’t be found.  When the search is eventually called off, they both find it difficult to let go of one another when Konrad returns home.   

In the second chapter, A Hero Cut in Half, Donato makes a decision to visit Konrad in the middle of a dreary winter in Germany, leaving behind his beloved beach, believing he could never live anywhere without it.  The guys pick up where they left off, continuing their affair in Berlin, dancing to Christophe’s “Aline” Praia do Futuro - Aline (cena completa) YouTube (2:27), or in crowded gay nightclubs, Praia do Futuro YouTube (2:21), where Konrad tries to make him feel welcome, but it’s clear Donato is out of his element living in a country that is alien to him.  The distance is reflected in long, wordless sequences where the audience grows acclimated to being in a culture speaking a foreign tongue, where you’re automatically separated from each and every person on the landscape.  In contrast to such a highly appealing, bright and sunny locale of Brazil, Germany couldn’t be more drab and gloomy, existing in a colorless void.  Despite the obvious isolation, it seems to heighten the other senses, as the sensual nature of the filmmaking turns this into an abstract expression of gentle sensations and absorbing ambiance, flirting with the idea of staying permanently, going all in, giving up what matters the most to him, where any decision to stay would have a protracted emotional and psychological price.  Jumping forward eight years, the chapter title says it all, A German Speaking Ghost, where Donato’s new ocean is an enclosed city aquarium where he works as a maintenance diver, seen swimming alone in an empty indoor pool, where he and Konrad are no longer together, but remain close friends.  Their lives are uprooted with the sudden arrival of Ayrton (Jesuíta Barbosa), who arrives angry and unannounced, seen initially making his way anonymously on the streets, finding his way around, exploring the big city on his own, picking up a wayward girl named Dakota (Sophie Charlotte Conrad) before releasing her to the winds.

This final section is perhaps the most disjointed, as it’s a case of lost connections, as Ayrton reports their mother died and they hadn’t heard from him in all this time, where Donato left one day and simply disappeared off the face of the earth.  All three have lost something vital and significant in their lives, where romance ebbs and flows, leaving an irreparable hole in their hearts, where Aïnouz resorts to sparse dialogue and an elegant expression of stylish imagery.  While it can be sexually explicit, ultimately the film is more about cultural dislocation and the remembrance of love, showing the elasticity of boundaries, both personal and geographic, and the effect distance has on relationships.  The authenticity of the ups and downs of the relationship couldn’t be more natural, elegantly scripted and especially well acted, reminiscent of Andrew Haigh’s Weekend (2011), as both are among the better portrayals of an adult gay relationship.  Aïnouz is a Brazilian who has now settled in Germany, paying a debt to Wim Wenders and the existential haze of The American Friend (Der amerikanische Freund) (1977), turning this final section into a melancholic road movie, where all three find themselves in different states of mind when they hit the road on their motorbikes, seemingly with no destination in mind, though they initially end up at the ocean in the desolation of a grey wintry landscape, as if stuck inside a cloud bank, desolate souls in search of their better selves, where the men struggle to find some form of reconciliation and mutual understanding, layered in a tender piano score by Volker Bertelmann.  It’s curious how different the three sections are both emotionally and cinematically, where the surging energy and youthful vibrancy of the opening gives way to emotive textures as an impressionistic and visually seductive mood supersedes narrative, where the wandering aimlessness of the finale takes on a poetic resonance as they ride into the foggy abyss of a German Autobahn to the sound of David Bowie and Brian Eno singing “Heroes” in both German and English, David Bowie, Heroes.1978 YouTube (6:24).

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