Aquarius

Aquarius ★★★★

Such a pleasure to be enveloped by Kleber Mendonça Filho's intelligent, assured rhythms and formal prowess. Certainly, much of the film's appeal is that it's so thematically cogent - no doubt a product of Mendonça Filho's background in criticism - but he also has an unmistakable talent for tactile detail (the thrum of a speaker system, Clara's hair, a wall of LPs), though it's less about physicality of the objects than the memories attached to them. The camera sweeps and swirls about Braga's matriarch, and also pulls back to survey the expanses of Recife, the city and its life - for better and for worse - being a natural extension of family ties. ("This is Brazil...") Not as kaleidoscopic or phantasmagoric as Neighboring Sounds, but, necessarily, more lucid and focused. Impassioned in its anger, yet sober enough to recognize the myriad complicating factors - racial and colonial history, Clara's own stubbornness and growing distance ("No, I don't read [the newspaper] anymore.") - all developed with such elegance and sinuous grace, the "ghost building" assaulted from without and within, reworked and reframed over the course of the film's languorous runtime. Ending is deceptively triumphant - the impasse remains, the beachfront caught between an "Aquarius" old and new. The poster of Barry Lyndon lingers in the background, impassive; termite art or not, history moves forward resolutely.

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