Shot on the Brazilian Sertao,the bleak parched lands of northern Brazil, a poverty striken cowhand called Manuel (Geraldo Del Rey) kills his abusive boss. Fleeing with his wife, Rosa (Yona Magalhaes) as outlaws, Manuel joins up with a self-proclaimed saint (Joao Gama) who condones violence and preaches disturbing doctrines. The movie then follows Manuel's journey into a life of crime, joining Antonio's gang (Mauricio do Vale) and eventually meeting Corisco (Othon Bastos) a hired assassin who is paid to kill both the priest and Antonio. Folk songs combine with the music of Villa Lobos and Bach to create a stirring backdrop.
Plan Nine From Mato Grosso
- Black God White Devil review by Count Otto Black
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You rated this film: 2
When watching an underground film made half a century ago in a country with very limited cinematic resources, you have to make allowances. But even so, this frequently resembles an unusually pretentious home movie. The acting ranges from adequate to atrocious, the action scenes are woefully unconvincing, and in a laugh-out-loud moment, the tragic death of a major character is turned into slapstick by a hilariously inept edit obviously meant to cover the actor's inability to fall flat on his face like a corpse is supposed to. Also, while a homage to the Odessa steps massacre in Sergei Eisenstein's "Battleship Potemkin" is a handy way of establishing your credentials as both an auteur and a Marxist, if you're going to rip off a legendarily well-directed sequence from somebody else's movie, it helps to be able to direct fairly well yourself.
Like its title, the film is in two distinct halves, the first of which works far better. The theme of the downtrodden citizens of a repressive state joining a fanatical and ultra-violent religious sect out of sheer desperation has considerable relevance in 2015, the mad "saint" Sebastian is quite effectively portrayed, though he never develops into anything more than a one-note enigma, and the director's habit of dwelling on everything for much too long (unless it's a technically difficult scene to direct, in which case he resorts to frantic MTV-style editing to get it over with as quickly as possible) actually works very well in the sequence where our resolute but rather dim hero performs a ludicrously masochistic and utterly pointless religious penance simply because his master says so.
Unfortunately, the second half, in which the protagonist teams up with the dreaded bandit Captain Corisco and his mighty outlaw army (all three of them), gets very silly indeed. Corisco, who is played by the world's worst actor, is given numerous lengthy swathes of incredibly pretentious dialogue to declaim, sometimes straight to the camera. To make matters worse, for some unexplained reason he believes himself to be possessed by the spirit of a deceased revolutionary leader, and is therefore required to have several extremely confusing conversations with himself. And of course, it winds things up with a bit of symbolic imagery which you probably aren't meant to take literally.
This is the kind of "important" movie which people who still insist that "Citizen Kane" is the best film ever made pretend to like so that they can have deep discussions about what it really means. But in the end, it simply isn't very good.