MQFF Film Review: Paulista

29 Mar

By Julian Buckeridge

While the title Paulista refers to the main thoroughfare through São Paulo, Brazil, and its inhabitants, the original title – Quanto Dura o Amor? / How Long Does Love Last? – better captures the brief and fleeting relationships that are found in this frantically paced city.

Paulista tells the story of three young twenty-somethings living in the “Jaqueline Apartment” building looking for love. Marina (Sílvia Lourenço) is an aspiring actress who has moved from the countryside for auditions and begins living with Suzana (Maria Clara Spinelli), a lawyer with a secret. Their neighbour, Jay, is a poet with a severe lack of self-esteem. Marina, Suzana and Jay fall hard for singer Justine (Danni Carlos), lawyer Gil (Gustavo Machado) and prostitute Michelle (Leilah Moreno), respectively. Will their romantic relationships survive in this non-stop world or will they end in heartbreak?

Roberto Moreira’s film is a melancholic study of modern relationships in the sterile and cold São Paulo. At the beginning, Marina feels alive in a city with so much energy, always framed in harmony with Paulista. As the film proceeds, however, she becomes disconnected in both a figurative and compositional sense. The location is soon shot as a particularly ugly place, with the cool tones of the RED Digital camera exaggerating this.

While Marina is the main character, it is Maria Clara Spinelli’s Suzana that becomes the focal point, breaking out of the conventional portrayal of transsexuals in film. Paulista neither sexualises nor demeans her; indeed, she is the most stable character in the movie, a contrast to the chaotic and spoilt Justine.

The film is played very naturally and the fact that Marina falls for another woman is considered unremarkable – it is a very striking method. Understanding – rather than punishing or glorifying – the characters’ sexualities, Paulista is a viscerally devastating feature.

Paulista played at the Melbourne Queer Festival 2011

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