Jonathan Nossiter’s delirious comedic romp through the favelas and high-end plastic surgery clinics of Rio de Janeiro (by way of the bedrooms and apartments of a curiously eclectic group of locals and foreigners) explores personal pleasures, relationships, philanthropy and the search for social justice with a gentle screwball sensibility. Nossiter has a natural affinity for people who drop out into bohemia, and certainly Rio Sex Comedy, set against the famous Copacabana beaches and the infamous Vidigal favela, continues in this mode.
The film circles around a plastic surgeon visiting from England (Charlotte Rampling), the U.S. ambassador to Brazil (Bill Pullman), who decides to go rogue, and a recently arrived intellectual French couple (Irène Jacob and Jean-Marc Roulot) trying to make an anthropological film. Despite the Altmanesque number of characters, Nossiter keeps the stories separate. The characters each reflect a very specific community, allowing Nossiter to probe the complex, kaleidoscopic nature of this very contradictory city – but they all end up in the favela anyway. Rampling’s doctor tours the various clinics and hospitals offering the latest in plastic surgery and tries to discourage people looking to nick and tuck their way to happiness. In the meantime, the new US ambassador, a nice guy who initially looks hopelessly out of his depth, slips away from his handlers and dives into Rio’s most notorious favela. He ends up in the hands of a wild tour guide and a stunning woman who open his eyes to Brazil’s strange reality. Then there is Irène and her intellectual husband, trying to make a movie while balancing a family, home and a feckless brother-in-law.
Inhibitions drop away, clothes are shed, and surprising relationships are formed, all against the backdrop of this extraordinary urban metropolis situated in one of the most magnificent settings in the world. As the plot heats up, the impossible becomes possible, and the outlandish begins to look strangely normal. But, then again, that’s Rio! —TIFF
Jonathan Nossiter has directed five feature films. The most recent is, “Rio Sex Comedy” (2010) starring Charlotte Rampling, Bill Pullman, Irène Jacob and Fisher Stevens.
“Mondovino”, a human comedy set in the wine world, was nominated for the Palme D’Or in Cannes in 2004 (one of only three documentaries ever nominated in the history of the festival) and was released in over 40 countries. A 10 part series derived from the feature, which he also directed and produced, had its world premiere at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2006. “Mondovino; the Series” was released on DVD by Diaphana in France in 2006 and has come out in numerous countries including in the US via Kimstin Video in 2009.
He co-wrote (with James Lasdun) and directed “Signs & Wonders” (2000), a psychological thriller set in Greece, produced by MK2 and Nick Wechsler, with Charlotte Rampling and Stellan Skarsgard. It was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 2000 Berlin Film festival.
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Disparate foreigners seek sexual fulfillment and social justice in Rio, weaving in and out of each other's lives. Bites off a bit more than it can chew as its uneven structure becomes a bit aimless. Overlong by about 30 mins. The film would have benefited from trimming the fat a bit. Still, strikes nice tonal balance between comedy and seriousness.