It is clearly well directed in my opinion. I was wondering, however, if certain people feel that it lacks subtlety. I could see how some may find it to be over indulgent. Others, perhaps, may believe that the director simply had the balls to portray events as they truthfully occur. On that note, it would be interesting to know how people would determine the difference between a film that lacks subtlety versus a film that simply has balls.
For example, some may believe that Precious was manipulative, lacking subtlety. Others, however, may feel that it was merely providing us with a gritty and realistic portrayal of life in Harlem in the 80s.
I’m in the “Lacked subtlety. Overindulgent.” camp you mentioned.
Great opening, and then from there on out a non-linear structure that just screamed to me to be covering up poor screenwriting or a total lack of screenwriting (don’t know the history of how it got made…it’s conceivable to me the whole thing was improved).
Felt very self-aware I was watching something striving to be edgy from very early on in my viewing, and never recovered to enjoy the movie.
Had a blast at BLINDNESS, laughed my ass off with my buddies I went with, but I don’t think that was the intended result. Still curious to see CONSTANT GARDENER.
City of God is a realistic depiction of life in Brazil….
Also gritty and realistic can be achieved with subtlety and in not manipulative ways. Does your username refer to Queen’s U?
no the borough of queens in nyc
Also, I agree with you. Being gritty and realistic implies that its neither overindulgent nor manipulative in my opinion.
Thank you Queens! I tried to say that once, but nobody agreed. It was an incredibly enjoyable film, but it was clearly more concerned with being enjoyable than a portrayal of Rio life. Instead of being a 400 Blows or Bicycle Thieves, it felt mostly like (yes yes YES!) Quentin Tarantino.
I don’t believe there is such a thing as a non-manipulative film, and personally, I love being manipulated by a talented filmmaker’s clever use of film language… But yes, City of God lacks sublety, which is a completely different problem than being manipulative. It’s also not that realistic, with the sole exception of maybe one or two scenes. For the most part, it’s highly stylized, over the top and very romanticized. Very, very romanticized. The storyline is almost a western. The Tender Trio spins their guns on their fingers and rob a gas truck wearing bandana masks just like robbers from old american westerns. The story of Knockout Ned and L’il Zé is nothing but a classic western revenge tale. I mean, just look at their nicknames – and the movie’s filled with easy one liners. I’m still a firm believer that the movie was a success in Brazil mostly because it looked like an expensive first rate production (different from most brazillian films of the time) and audiences were having fun watching a brazillian film in theaters for a change. It annoys me to no end when people call it realistic and fail to mention those aspects of the film, which are in my opinion, truly responsible for its success both in Brazil and overseas. That and the film’s tendency towards sensationalism. It sells. I don’t wanna use the term “poverty porn”, but that’s pretty much my issue with it, an issue I have with about 90% of brazillian film since people started making films down here. It sort of became a cliche already, for Brazillian films to deal solely with social maladies and practically nothing else in a rather simplistic and sensationalistic way. In City of God’s case, I think those moments of over the top “gritty realism” tend to clash with the stylized genre elements, leading to a hypocritical monster of a movie that wants you to feel for the suffering of its subjects (real people with real issues, as they incessantly keep telling you both in the movie and the marketing for it) while trivializing it in a sea of romantic narrative and stylish eye candy.
Personally, I don’t like City of God all that much for all of the reasons above, but also because I’m not a fan of Meirelles’ direction and style. I honestly think the movie was taken for something much more important than it actually is, and I feel the same way about the rest of Meirelles’ filmography.
PS.: Just out of curiosity, are you brazillian, Sandwiches?
Augusto, perhaps the director meant for City of God to seem the way it did
Of course he did. Never meant to say he didn’t mean to. The fact it was his intention is one of the reasons I don’t like it.
is there something empirically wrong in your opinion with films being stylized and romanticized or is it simply not your cup of tea.
My problem with City of God is not that it’s stylized or romanticized, I’m sorry that it might have seemed that way from my reply. It’s more complicated than that. I think I just replied to your question in the other thread you created moments ago. I’ll copy and paste here to make things easier:
I love stylized/romanticized movies. In fact, it’s my favorite type of movie. I don’t look for realism in movies, never did. I’m not a fan of the handheld, seemingly improvised, based on a true story, “realistic” movies that are all the craze recently. I am a fan of honesty and verissimilitude, though (but concerning verissimilitude, although it is important, sometimes I’m more lenient towards the lack of it depending on the movie I’m watching). That said, I won’t like a movie simply because it’s stylized. I have to like the style to like the movie. It’s a very personal thing, man. A matter of personal taste.
My problem with City of God, specifically, is not that it’s stylized and romanticized, but that there’s a lot about that particular style that I don’t like and that to me it seems the movie is usually taken as incredibly realistic when it’s not. People tend to overlook the over the top romanticized story and there’s also an aura of “self importance” to that movie that I don’t like, like it’s superior to other movies that are honestly just romanticized/stylized and make no qualms about it simply because it deals with social maladies and real people. That’s all.
I watched this movie again recently and found it entertaining but lacking any real depth.
Like many films made around that time (early noughties), it’s a slave to the emerging camera technology, relying heavily on sweeping camera movements and fast editing. Saying that, it does look good and given the non-linear structure it is a compelling story. But it is a story and can’t be seen as anything other than that. Its not realistic and doesn’t come over as a social realist film. It is pure entertainment. My main criticism would be that I didn’t feel any empathy with any of the characters, even though we are clearly meant to root for Rocket, his character is just too underdeveloped and relies on a certain amount of naivity that suggests he is not a part the chaotic violence going on around him, but just left me rather uninterested in him.
Loved the ending though. The idea of society ultimately ending up in the hands of psychopathic children is an idea that has been a used in stories as diverse as Lord of the Flies to the Star Trek episode Miri.
Good wholesome entertainment. Nothing more, nothing less.
I liked it a lot more the first time than the second time. I agree the ending is awesome. After a film of people dying trying to escape, he escapes by taking a photo of the man who was about to murder him being murdered.
Subtlety is not needed when you want to show the harsh realities of life in the slums of Brazil. Would you have preferred a quiet soundtrack, elegant cinematography and long drawn-out dialogues to portray an extremely violent environment? Nonsense.
Watch In Vanda’s Room
I think both approaches work, and it all depends how you want the audience to attach to the characters. City Of God was good but didn’t need the melodramatics of a gangster movie, and the rubbing of themes that were already obvious in our faces.
“the movie is usually taken as incredibly realistic when it’s not.”
True enough. Though often when people talk about a film being “realistic” there talking about it creating an experience engaging enough to create for them an experience that feels more like a actual experience than a typical film does rather than verisimilitude per se. Many times overt stylization can create a hyperreal experience that is more “real” for an audience even it’s obviously departing from pure verisimilitude.
Deserves a rewatch. I enjoyed it each time I have seen it. I didn’t have a problem with it being ‘unrealistic’ last I recall though.
I preferred Gomorrah but City Of God wasn’t bad.
It has been years since I last watched it, and I can’t really separate its visual style in memory from that of Scott’s “Man On Fire”. I recall a harsh tale, and one with harrowing child/youth portrayals. But again, it’s been years and it’s probably in dire need of re-watch.
a little overrated.
Confessions is better.
^ That’s not entirely coincidental. Meirelles’s DP, César Charlone, came (at Tony Scott’s invitation) and worked as a camera operator on Man of Fire.
Well, well. Let the saturation filter run forth, then!
more than a little overrated.
If it wasn’t so talked about I would have forgotten about it years ago. A non-event.
A little underrated. If it was a famous director it would be better rated.
Although, isn’t City Of God based on real events and real people, only dramatized to be more exciting?
One of my favorite movies. I love that it is simply a story of events, it’s not like a super intricate plot or anything. You simply follow these characters growing up and watch them drift apart and change over the years. I don’t think the violence is over indulgent or anything like that. You should watch the documentary that came with it; it shows some of the real people from that area. And they simply don’t give a FUCK about anything
Yeah a lot of what people complain about in this thread is what I like about it. I do not find the movie to be dishonest, but the complaints about it trying to be a Western or a gangster movie is a strong feeling I get from the movie in terms of how the kids see the violence around them. It is overromanticized but the kids aren’t really sitting around realizing Holy Fuck, this Shit’s Fer Reals. They see themselves as gunslingers and wheelers and dealers and so that’s the world crafted around them.
I do agree that the main character sort of seems out of place, in that his role in all of this is understated and then he’s suddenly there as observer in a way that feels out of place to the responsibility being expressed in the movie. I think they were trying for a more objective third person to mix a documentary style about it, but the “simple one-liners” and so on that come from this movie seem more like a newspaper article or editorial that they are quoting from. I think that’s where the narrative comes from, a news article. So the movie is two things, an indulgence into this world as the kids see it, and a detached observer of its horrors, the two things sometimes not working together quite well.
Still, I think it’s a well made piece and do not find early Naughties video brat stylizations to be a bad thing. I think we’ve gotten a handle of it better now, but back then it gave people like Moreilles a lot of freedom to do things they previously didn’t have access to.
Waerdnotte: Loved the ending though. The idea of society ultimately ending up in the hands of psychopathic children is an idea that has been a used in stories [such as] Lord of the Flies…
Nice connection, and a most pertinent one, to boot!
Frankly, I don’t care if this film lacked realism, was too stylized, or too manipulative. It certainly worked – and brilliantly, too – for me! 10/10
It’s probably three years since I last watched it, but the main thrust of the film is still fresh in my mind. I couldn’t say that for more than a couple of dozen movies, which to me means “Yer dun well, Meirelles. Yer dun well, my son.”
Cultural tourism and presenting the poor classes’ stories in an entertaining exotic way to the bourgeoisie. Just another rich film about poverty like: Slumdog Millionaire and Precious.