A deeply disturbing and heartbreaking neo-realist film, about an abandoned, unwanted 10 year old living first in a reformatory, and then on Brazil's mean streets.
The performances Babenco gets from his non-professional cast are amazing, especially his tiny young lead.
The film almost totally avoids the twin traps of false sentimentality (although it's got plenty of emotion), or needless flashiness. It occasionally feels aimless, but somehow, in the end, always adds up.
Probably the weakest, most problematic moment is the opening, where the `director' (Babenco, or an actor?) tells us that these actors are real people, gives us some facts and figures about them, and tells that their lives are much like those shown in the film.
It then took me the first few minutes of the movie to forget about that, and get involved with the characters, and not get all intellectually caught up the artistic complexities of `real people' playing a dramatic variation on their lives.
So perhaps I don't consider this terrific, important film a 'perfect' masterpiece as so many do- but I deeply admire it and respect it, would encourage everyone to see it (though you doubtless find the experience upsetting) and look forward to seeing it a third time. You will never be able to look at a poor kid on the street quite the same way again.
And I'm thrilled that after years of waiting, a proper 1:85 release is available, on Amazon.us. Yes, it's DVD-R, which means it may not play on your computer, theoretically will have a shorter shelf life, and has no extras. But after years where this important, influential film was out of print and very difficult to see - and when you could find it it was a terribly transferred 4:3 VHS based version that someone wanted $60 for - this is a big step in the right direction