Monday, December 12, 2005

Central Station


Dir: Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries; Dark Water)

Recommended by my friend Caitlyn Ross, this Brazilian film explores the evolving relationship between an young boy searching for his father and a cynical woman who cannot overcome her own familial dissolution. Fernanda Montenegro earned an Oscar nomination as Dora, the ex-school teacher who writes letters for illiterate Brazilians in the train station. When the mother of young Josue is killed in a traffic accident, Dora exploits the child for her own gain. But, after a crisis of conscience, the two travel across the country in search of the father.

The movie is full of tension. In fact, it is quite difficult to watch at times as everyone seems at odds, never fitting together. For some reason I felt like I was listening to some dissonant music or viewing a painting where the colors purposefully contrast. Dora is extremely complex and troubled. Her actions are the product of deep seated traumas, so we understand them and yet we wince at how self desctructive she is. Around her a series of well meaning characters pivot, unable to connect with her given her barriers to intimacy and selfishness. The preformance is excecuted without any vanity, and we are forced to simultaneously sympathize with yet judge the woman. A very fine bot of acting and writing.

The last fifteen minutes that truly elevate the movie. The eventual resultion of Dora's relationship with Josue is truly moving, understandable and believable. Perhaps a touch over sentimental, but not sugary by any means. Central Station is a compassionate and complex charatcer study that explores the continuing effects of bad parenting on adult life.

Watch for a spectaculr shot of Dora and Josue sitting on a hill overlooking a church. A really nice camera move that I had never seen before.

By the way, Life is Beautiful beats this film for the Foregin Language Oscar. Right choice. But Montenegro loses the Oscar to Gwenyth Paltrow. Uh . . . no.