Thursday, January 29, 2009

Estômago (Estômago: A Gastronomic Story)

As some may recall I’m a little scared of Brazilian films but decided to watch this movie that definitively has a very suggestive name, Stomach. Well not exactly what I imagined as seems that prison movies are “following” me. Yes this is a prison movie too but is in a male Brazilian prison that honestly looks worst than prisons from Argentina. Anyway the movie was quite surprising as is truly entertaining; it starts in the prison but soon crisscrosses to the past, so you have basically two movies that look and feel quite different one from the other.

Inspired by the short story “Presos pelo Estômago” by Lusa Silvestre this film directed by Marcos Jorge tells the story of Raimundo Nonato (João Miguel) that if the story was told sequentially will start with him arriving to the big city from a small city and finding that he has an extraordinary talent for cooking when he starts cooking at a small shop, he's so good that soon he’s “stolen” to a upper class Italian restaurant where he learns haute cuisine and the art of mixing ingredients. But something happen (and you will not know it until the end) and he ends up in a small prison cell with other 10 inmates, the only way he gains respect and ascends the ranks is to start cooking for his cell mates, so he does and the most exquisite dishes are prepared in that tiny cell full of men.

One word of advise, if you decide to watch this movie I strongly suggest you do it with a full stomach or you could get really hungry even when there are some dishes prepared in the most unclean conditions. But as you imagine this story is not only about cooking, is also about sex and power, and definitively Marcos Jorge is a great storyteller that found the most interesting way to tell this very unusual story.

The movie is funny especially because the amazing performance by João Miguel that really looks like a lost-in-the-city peasant and for those familiar with Brazil, let me tell you that the character comes from northern Brazil and people from that area are the object of many jokes, just as the ones that come from Galicia, Spain (Gallegos' jokes). So, he’s really funny both for the way he looks as for what he says. This is his film as he’s almost in every scene.

The film as a film has two different cinematography’s done clearly on purpose to show the lower and higher environments but honestly you do not pay much attention to the above production values as you really get into the story and your eyes follow the unbelievable Raimundo Nonato. But there are some moments in the movie that somehow made me recall the style of Fellini, especially in the most grotesque scenes. The films has 12 wins and 4 nominations in mainly Latin American and Spain festivals, including winning the Golden Spike, Best New Director, Youth Jury Award and Best Actor for Miguel in the 2008 Valladolid fest.

I tend to believe that this film is not for all audiences and probably is best suited for those familiar with Latin American traditions and cinema, as what you will see in the screen looks and feels like raw realism and those scenes that not is because they are really harsh. So definitely I’m unsure if I should or shouldn’t recommend it and if you decide to give it a try do it at your own risk.

I liked the movie even when I found the story quite predictable (many say the opposite, so go figure) and soon enough I guessed most of what happens, but the ride was entertaining and funny.


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