“There’s no prettier sight than looking back on a town you left behind.”
Beautifully melancholic, the song that plays over the title sequence to João Dumans and Affonso Uchôa’s latest is consumed by wanderlust. Taking inspiration from James Joyce’s short story ‘Araby’, published in Dubliners (1914), Dumans and Uchôa have made a film that will remain important for a hundred years. Rising to fame with their docu-drama The Hidden Tiger (2014), the filmmakers’ lyrical realism once again blurs the boundaries of fact and fiction without concealing their political intent.
We follow South American Llewyn Davis, Cristiano (Aristides de Sousa), as he crosses Brazil living hand to mouth from menial job to menial job. The itinerant labourers Cristiano encounters have all suffered from the brutality of the world and it is their collective story that prevails. Reminiscent of Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson – another quietly compelling blue-collar film – Araby shows the reality of a marginalised group of people in one modest, unsentimental ballad strung together by some very moving guitar interludes.
Cristiano’s memoir is unearthed in the film’s 15-minute prologue that takes place in Ouro Preto, an industrial town “full of smoke; full of old folk”. André, the disillusioned chain-smoking adolescent who makes this chance discovery, not only stands in for the viewer, but for the conscientious bystander, as Cristiano’s sacrifice is couched in Biblical terms.
A lesser film might have stated the impact Cristiano’s memoir had on André, but the beauty of this is that we never return to André – his encounter, like our own, is entirely open-ended.
A highly nuanced work of lyrical realism, Araby is an instant classic. A sophisticated and accomplished micro-budget film, this paean to first-person storytelling is timeless. Alongside Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Aquarius, 2017 looks to be the year for Brazilian cinema.
CAST: Aristides de Sousa, Murilo Caliari, Glaucia Vandeveld
DIRECTORS: João Dumans, Affonso Uchoa
WRITERS: João Dumans, Affonso Uchoa
SYNOPSIS: André is a young boy that lives in an industrial neighborhood near an old aluminium factory in Brazil. One day he finds a notebook from one of the factory workers and is drawn into his past life on the road.