Aquarius ★★★★½

Old photos in the opening credits show Recife as a seafront of skyscrapers, surrounded by jungle; it's a beach town, but the water is full of sharks. Mendonca Filho's cinema, at least on the basis of two films, seems to be concerned with clinging to a place (a city, a neighbourhood, a block of flats) surrounded by threats, both real and imagined - and this rich, consistently intelligent film is a series of interactions as our heroine clings to her home, clings to the past, clings to life in the midst of assorted deaths (old bones in the graveyard make her shudder; her building is "a ghost building" and a dead son also appears - so to speak - at his mum's birthday party). The filmmaking works with contrasts - the raucous girls' night followed by the soft-spoken widower, Aunt Lucia in the prologue sentimentally feted by her family but actually recalling the wild sex she had as a young girl back in 1931 - and, again and again, an awareness of all the unseen things gnawing at these everyday encounters, the class and racial divides of Brazil or the irony and unpredictability of life, 'John Lennon's Plans for the Future' laid out in an interview just weeks before his murder (the irony revealed to our heroine like a gift from the cosmos in a secondhand copy of 'Double Fantasy', then passed on to an interviewer who blithely ignores it - she just wants a topical quote, so the piece can be headlined "I Love MP3"). The ending adds the most glorious joke in the whole movie - and it has to be an in-joke, given his background in film criticism: even with all the extra funding, Mendonca Filho is still making - literally! - termite art.

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