Mini-Review: Malandro (A Opera do Malandro)

I first wrote about this movie for a version of the Underrated Dramas series that Rupert Pupkin Speaks started that I spun-off on my page:

When playing national word-association most will mention football (soccer) when it comes to Brazil. I would hope they would also mention music at some point if pressed for more words. Chico Buarque is among Brazilian music’s legendary names. Here you have a film that’s a dramatization of songs he wrote, but also quite a telling and compelling drama. The images I always associated with these songs in my mind here are given form and context in a great way, incorporating period and obfuscated commentary.

This is one that I know definitely qualifies for the underrated simply because of how overlooked it is. Firstly, there is the fact of the pure lack of unavailability with regards to the title. With a surge in interest in works from Brazil in the 1980s with some of its successful films like Pixote, the rise of Sonia Braga in Hollywood and Marîlia Pera in indies here, the film came here and even had a VHS release.

That’s how I saw it as a rental from Movies Unlimited. All the historical and social context about Brazil in 1941 aligning itself with the Nazi Germany against popular sentiment, is conveyed through the tale. The word malandro is a very specifically Brazilian describing a sort of wiseguy, a guy on the wrong side of the law and tracks whose not a hardened criminal and looking to have good time. It also helps that he’s often referred to that way so it becomes almost like a common noun rather than an adjective.

Not speaking Portuguese really only robs you some of the lyrics, but the music and singing are great and the meaning of the songs are well portrayed in subtitles if not poetic any longer.

It’s a wonder this film has not been restored and repacked on Blu-ray from some repertory label. If you can track it down it’s well worth it.