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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on June 1, 2004
Thanks to Charles Murphy for his heads-up re the DVD. I'll be sure to look for the Brazilian version.
I haven't seen the DVD yet. This review concerns the movie I saw in the theater.
This is a great movie, on a par with Scorsese's "Goodfellas". It is exactly what "Gangs of New York" was supposed to be: a tragic tale of two generations of gang life in the slums of a huge, sprawling, hopeless, lawless city. Whereas "Gangs" got lost in a phony story with miscast actors, "City of God" is a perfect recreation of its subject matter. We see all the characters grow up in these squalid surroundings, and everything they do makes sense, tragic sense. We watch in horror as people get sucked into a dead-end life of crime, while a lucky few escape. We see the whole thing come round and then go full circle again. We understand at the end that the whole senseless, bloody thing will go on and on. The old monsters get pushed aside by the new monsters they helped to create. And it will keep on keeping on. Another generation, another mess. Humanity will never learn from its mistakes.
This is a movie that sticks with you. After you've seen it, you won't forget it.
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on June 1, 2004
Ask yourself if you like films? If yes, then you'll love this. If no, then what the hell are you reading this review for. First of all, the camera trickery and Scorcese style sporadic flicks, freeze frames and flashbacks are superbly executed and work naturally within the framwork of the film. They only drive to make it stylish. Style amongst ghetto slums can only be cool. Add to that some cool as a cucumber Brazilian samba tunes, 70's throwback songs and general cool songs. Add to that the character "Benny" - the coolest guy put on celluloid in 2003. He isn't the main character, but he dominates the screen when he is on. And you start to really understand his plans and subsequent plight.
We witness a world that we won't ever be a part of, and won't ever truly understand, and we are taken on a shakesperean story of epic proportions, even though the setting is a Rio favela isn't "epic" in essence, it is made epic by the sprawling time frame and vast array of characters. This is what we learn at GCSE Geography, about poverty and the struggle to get free of the slums, only here it's simply irresistible. The story was adapted from a novel by Paulo Lins, who grew up in the area and witnessed the lifestyle firsthand.
80's cool, 70's even cooler, cool characters, cool music, cool story, cool cinematography.
Subtitles? Didn't notice!!
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on May 3, 2004
It's hard to describe a movie like City of God. It's not a documentary, but its grittiness makes you feel like what you're seeing is real. It's based on a true story, but it's hard to believe that events like the ones shown in the film actually can happen. It's hard to not relate and care for some of the characters even though most of them are murderers and drug users or traffickers.
City of God, or Cidade de Deus, is a brilliant, if brutal, film. First time director Fernando Meirelles brings to life a story of a group of boys who live in the slums of Rio de Janeiro in the 60's and 70's. Life there is tremendously hard and most kids end up as criminals, using and trafficking drugs, and carrying guns and shoothing each other like its their birthright.
Meirelles succeeds in bringing a vibrant and dynamic direction to the story, with a fantastic use of editing and music. But the thing that brings the film to life is the performance of all the actors, some of which are actually gang members and inhabitants of Rio's slums. Their acting is right on the spot, and because most of them (if not all) are unknown to the audience, they literally become their characters.
It's been compared to Scorsese's Goodfellas, and I think that's a fair comparison, not only because of the subject, but also because of the use of editing and the intertwining of stories. The use of narration by the main character is also similar.
This film was nominated to four Academy Awards, including Best Director for Meirelles, Best Adapted Screenplay for Bráulio Mantovani, Best Editing (brilliantly done by Daniel Rezende) and Best Cinematography.
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on April 19, 2004
For anyone who thinks Fernando Meirelles' "Cidade de Deus" (City of God) might be a bit melodramatic and over the top, consider the lead paragraph from this recent (April 17, 2004) news story from the Financial Times:
"While tourists sipped caipirinhas in Rio de Janeiro's exclusive Leblon district during the Easter holidays, machine-gun fire echoed from the scenic hills above. A turf war raged between rival gangs trying to dominate the nearby Rocinha favela - and its drug market estimated at $3m per week - and at least a dozen people were killed. Since then the police have killed Luciano Barbosa da Silva, the drug lord known as Lulu, and 1,200 officers have been occupying Rocinha."
If you've seen the movie, you know that story is life imitating art. 'City of God' scores on two levels - the story itself is gripping and jaw-dropping, but the technical achievement of the film is also worthy of note. It scored a Best Director Oscar nomination for Meirelles. It's easy to see why. From the opening scene (which also doubles as one of the closing scenes) of a mad scramble through the favela to chase down a fleeing chicken, to a shocking robbery gone bad at a local motel, to a party to toast retiring drug lord Benny, to Lil' Dice's moment of truth, it's just one amazing sequence after another. I just think of the coordination it must have taken to pull together the scene depicting Benny's going away party. The depth of action in that 10-minute or so sequence is so rich, it'll take 10+ viewings to pick up all the details Meirelles has crammed in there.
This is an amazing movie worth seeing a couple of times or more.
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on April 2, 2004
Simply put, this is probably one of the single most significant films ever released, and (so far) undoubtedly the most important film of the 21st century. You know, I won't bog you down with technical and story details, 'cause you don't want to read those again. But the film is packed to the gills with so much rich detail and believably realistic acting from no one's residing in the very "favela" that is the film's namesake, which inherently implies that it warrants something uniquely special. Any misanthropic gutterpunk in the US can hate our government because of what it deprives its citizens, but you know what? They haven't seen this movie; they have not known true and calculated governmental neglect.
But, I'll just let these facts speak for themselves: "Cidade de Deus" has remained in Bay Area movie theaters for going on fifteen months straight, the controversy of the film's failure to gain entry into the 2002 Oscars' Best Foreign Language Film category heralded delayed critical celebratory nominations for the following year, in which it garnered every single important nomination excluding "Best Picture". And the film is Brazil's number one all-time money maker. That not enough? The film's reception and high accolades are also responsible for the Brazilian government prompting socioeconomic reform. This is what I mean when I use the term "significant," and I don't use it lightly.
The direction is beyond craftsmanlike, the cinematography exemplary, the screenplay is crisp, layered, and cleverly nonlinear without ever making the viewer play catchup. And the editing... oh, man, the editing. It won the British Film Award for Editing back in 2002, and in case you don't know, that is a granddaddy prize for technical film achievement.
The film boasts maybe one of the strongest senses of place I've ever witnessed in film. This film takes place INSIDE that world; the world does not take place around the film, if that makes any sense.
If you want to watch something that will teach you about the forgotten corners of the world even more than being uncommonly entertaining and violently riveting, this is the film to wake up with. I cannot offer a higher recommendation.
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on March 19, 2004
When I decided to watch "Cidade de Deus", I was rather hesitant. Although I had heard positive comments for the film, there were several things that were putting me off: The shoot-em-up story did not sound original, the actors were amateur, the language and location were not so familiar. However I devided to give it a try.
Well, it proved to be a very wise move by my side: "Cidade de Deus" is simply an excellent film. The story might not be that original but is very interesting and very well-told. The "amateur" actors are superb, and perform much better than many professional ones. The language and location may not sound familiar at the beginning, but the masterful director soon gets you quickly entwined with the environment; in fact, he is maybe the greatest asset of this production, as he does an excellent job in providing us with a top-notch direction.
What you see is sometimes so surreal (a poor ghetto community totally isolated from the "normal" parts of Brazil, small children toying with drugs and guns, people showing a complete lack of respect for human life, etc.) that you tend to think it is a bit exaggerated. Sadly, it is not: The story is true, and many if the actors that play in it are actual inhabitants of this kind of ghetto communities. The film should awake many of us who sometimes tend to feel that our comfortable lives are the norm in this world, when in fact they are rather the exception.
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on March 7, 2004
This is one of the best movies out there and tells the story of ghetto life in rio de jinero through the eyes of professional photographer, Rocket. Life has been though since the city of god has been runned by self proclaimed boss, Li'l Ze. He took over the buisness after shooting two members of the legendary 'hoodlum trio', the best and greatest young thieves if the city of god. The story takes us through the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s when a great charecter hoping for peace, benny was shot dead in his farewell party as he was leaving the game of crime and drugs to live with his girlfrind outside city of god in a quiet farm. Later then brews up a rivalry between Li'l Ze and a new charcter, Knockout Ned who fight to the end as two of the biggest gangs in the city of god brought it to the streets of Rio. With a shocking ending and terrific screen play, this movie has earned its spot as the greatest adaptation play of all time, ending the reign of a ruthless druglord and a man sought on revenge. This is City of God through the eyes of a great charecter keen on survival, Rocket.
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on March 4, 2004
this is one of the most amazing pieces of cinematography i have ever seen. it is beautifully shot and put together including still frames and interweaving stories to give the true passion and emotions that rule the gangwarfare and overall life of the slums in rio.
the actors although are hardly known deliver their roles so well that it is hard to think that it's just a film and not actually really happening there in front of you. the honesty of the narration and the fact we see the lives of the characters evolving makes us feel like we could really be living their lives with them. it draws you in like no other film has ever done because you see both sides of the war and can really appreciate yet never fully know the hardship that many people have to face daily. it is almost impossible not have loyalty to the lives of the young hoodlums we are introduced to and love immediately; especially the infamous trio whose smooth talking and childlike innocence in their petty crimes will win you over instantly. A hood never stops they just take a break, this film never stops enticing and enthralling you it takes a break. each story is separated by freeze frames alowing you to contemplate on the last and prepare for the next even more brutal scene.
I dont think it's fair to compare it to films such as goodfellas just because it too is spread over a large time period as i feel that Cidade de Deus is like no other. it is one of my favourite films that i've ever seen due to its ruthless honesty in portraying the slums in brazil and because of the simple yet stunning camera work and direction. Its not like other films that try to reflect the lives and harsh reality for people in the world, it really captures the passionate characteristics of the hispanic culture and the soundtrack just adds to this emotive piece of cinema.
The frantic and precarious lives are revealed to us decade by decade whilst throwing in extra shots from the past which suddenly help us to piece together all the events as the storyline evolves.
I don't have one bad thing to say about this film it was electric yet calming, perilous and urgent and altogether absolutely beautiful.
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on February 28, 2004
In the 50s and 60s outside Rio de Janeiro the Brazilian government isolated the poor by building a huge ghetto a distance from Rio de Janeiro. The ghetto turns into a sizeable city that continues to grow as more people are bussed into the poverty of the area. The film pushes a message of where there is poverty there are also dreams of something better. The two common means to achieve these dreams are either hard work or escape of the cruel reality through drugs. The later choice is the common alternative as it is easier to obtain and offers a quick fix to the problem, since hard work that pays enough to escape the ghetto is difficult to find. As the story begins, the audience is introduced to the young boy Buscapé, the narrator, whose brother is a member in a small gang called The Tender Trio. Buscapé tells a tale of the how ideas lead to the quest for the "better something" as The Tender Trio seeks the holy grail through robbery. However, these robberies seems futile as the real money lays with those who control the drugs. As drugs become more accessible the drug dealers begin to control their own territories, and in Buscapé's story the greed for more leads to a bloody path lined with murder and tragedy. Through Buscapé the audience is enlightened about the birth of violence which is related to the drugs and greed in the city called the City of God. City of God is a strong and disturbing film as it depicts young children being victims of the violence or as the actual assailants as the gangs demands the loyalty. In addition, the films message is enhanced by terrific cinematography and a well written story, which is based on true events and individuals. City of God offers a brilliant cinematic experience that will not escape the mind of the audience as it pulls the audience through a painful story that continues to take place in the ghetto outside Rio de Janeiro where one person dies every 30 minutes from violence.
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on February 25, 2004
"I resisted the video," Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein said. As usual, he got his way. The DVD release date for this stunning film about young hoodlums living and dying in the slums of Rio de Janeiro has been pushed back four months, until June 8. Weinstein can't be blamed for wanting Fernando Meirelles' film to find its audience in theaters: "City of God" is one of the year's best, with an audacious visual style that demands a big screen. Those who must wait for the DVD will find first-rate images and audio that capably delivers the big-beat soundtrack.
Best supporting feature: A test copy of the DVD included only one extra, but it's outstanding. The hourlong Brazilian TV documentary "News From a Personal War" surveys the real "City of God" turf, interviewing gangsters, police and innocents about civil warfare in the favelas. "There is no solution," the police chief says; "The war will never end," a young gangster vows. Documentary footage of slum shootouts will make believers of those unconvinced by "City of God's"nonstop violence.
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