A film which opens with a closeup on its subject’s privates will not be to everyone’s taste. It is hard to separate the pornography throughout The Blue Flower of Novalis (A rosa azul de Novalis) from its conversational approach to its subject, Marcelo Diorio, but this documentary integrates the most mundane and unconventional elements of the São Paulo resident’s life and beliefs to create an unforgettable, if uneven and unduly explicit, portrait.

Throughout the majority of the film, the lens is trained tight on Diorio as he shares his physical and emotional self in direct conversation with those behind the camera. Surreal re-enactments occasionally break this structure; the unintentional comedy of these sometimes distracts but Diorio’s commitment to the form means they largely work.

Diorio commands the camera’s gaze and is clearly in control of his narrative. Most of his anecdotes and beliefs are expressed with complete self-assurance and faith. No facet of Diorio’s life is off limits – incest, death, family, faith, and his HIV diagnosis are all on the table; the last one provides one of the documentary’s most intimate moments, his nonchalance cracking as he confesses his fears and disappointment over living up to his homophobic family’s worst expectations.

Unsurprisingly, the limited premise runs out of steam after its first two-thirds, but it is a testament to Diorio’s charisma and unflappable candor that it maintains attention for so long. The last 20 minutes devolve into pornography, a shocking yet sensitive exploration of Diorio’s sexuality, spirituality, and reconciliation of the two.

The Blue Flower of Novalis may rely too much on provocation to provide narrative momentum and is certainly not a film for all viewers. However, despite structural flaws, it proves an empathetic, non-judgmental – possibly even sweet – portrait of a man disregarding taboos and mores in his search for truth.

RATING: 3/5 


CAST: Marcelo Diorio

DIRECTORS: Gustavo Vinagre, Rodrigo Carneiro

WRITERS: Gustavo Vinagre, Rodrigo Carneiro

SYNOPSIS: In his apartment in São Paulo, between making coffee and gay hook-ups, Marcelo casually and sincerely discussed his longings and beliefs.