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City of God
Year:
2002
Country:
Brazil, France
Genre:
Crime, Drama
IMDB rating:
8.7
Director:
Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund
Alexandre Rodrigues as Buscapé Criança - Young Rocket
Leandro Firmino as Dadinho - Li'l Dice
Phellipe Haagensen as Bené Criança - Young Benny
Douglas Silva as Dadinho - Li'l Dice
Jonathan Haagensen as Cabeleira - Shaggy
Matheus Nachtergaele as Sandro Cenoura - Carrot
Seu Jorge as Mané Galinha - Knockout Ned
Jefechander Suplino as Alicate - Clipper
Alice Braga as Angélica
Emerson Gomes as Barbantinho - Stringy
Edson Oliveira as Barbantinho Adulto - Older Stringy
Michel de Souza as Bené Criança - Young Benny
Roberta Rodrigues as Berenice - Bernice
Luis Otávio as Buscapé Criança - Young Rocket
Storyline: Brazil, 1960's, City of God. The Tender Trio robs motels and gas trucks. Younger kids watch and learn well...too well. 1970's: Li'l Zé has prospered very well and owns the city. He causes violence and fear as he wipes out rival gangs without mercy. His best friend Bené is the only one to keep him on the good side of sanity. Rocket has watched these two gain power for years, and he wants no part of it. Yet he keeps getting swept up in the madness. All he wants to do is take pictures. 1980's: Things are out of control between the last two remaining gangs...will it ever end? Welcome to the City of God.
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Reviews
'City of God' is A Place Where Life is Cheap, But Humanity is Richly Vibrant!
Brazillian director Fernando Meirelles' splashy feature debut is a dynamically exciting portrait of Rio de Janeiro's violent gangs - a blood-spattered, non-stop ride as much into the life of a 'favela' (squatter settlement) as it is into the lives of the youths who inhabit it.

The methodically constructed screenplay is narrated with subjective clarity by Rocket, a young aspiring photographer caught between his deadly surroundings and his treasured sense of ambition. The movie's principal characters, growing up in the Brazilian slum 'Cidade de Deus' in the 60's, are a bunch of drug-peddling, gun-toting hoods hell-bent on revenge - with the notable exception of Rocket, who would rather aim a camera than a shotgun. But Rocket's tale is only one of the dozens of stories 'City of God' juggles with equal aplomb. From the breakneck opening involving a chicken on the lam, the film throbs with several stories: two and a half hours fly by fast and bloody. There's Knockout Ned, a quiet ex-soldier who believes that education and honest work will get him out of the slum. There's Li'l Ze, a vicious drug kingpin with a frozen heart, who erases the Tender Trio's early thug-life template with a psychotically itchy trigger finger. There's Benny, the grooviest hood in the slum, who attempts to retire from Ze's drug game and then there's the hood with my favorite moniker, Steak'nFries, all locked into a headlong dance of sex, drugs, and violence.

City of God is an unmissable cinematic triumph, peopled with affecting characters that avoid cliché, and a familiar story signposted with brutally shocking punctuation. Basing the story on real events and people, the makers employ a host of young non-professional actors residing in the slums where the story takes place, who perform a spectacular job under Fernando Meirelles' brilliant direction. Meirelles illuminates every frame of this fresh, ferocious and indelibly moving film that moves at whiplash velocity thanks to a terse script. He endows each chapter with powerful, uncompromising, beguiling and, sometimes, deceptive momentum. In a film of battering audacity, no shock hits harder than the way Meirelles choreographs murder to a dance beat, an exuberant form of kiddie recreation.

But for all of the story's violent subject matter, there is also much natural beauty to savor thanks to the dynamic cinematography that captures Brazil's magnificent landscape. Every aspect of the filmmaking exists as a virtuosic symphony of theme, character, context, and style. The style is all dazzle and in-your-face pizazz, quick titles, cuts, and digressions, split screens and smash zooms, while a remarkably complex story unfolds and the funky soundtrack grooves along - all that dazzle serves a purpose.

To watch 'City of God' is to become submersed in a hidden culture where life is cheap but the humanity is vibrant. It is a devastating epic about the roots of criminality and the ironic cruelties of life that also works as an intimate personal drama.
2016-02-08
while still fresh in my mind.......


Quite a gritty orange tinted vacation I had in the slums of Rio. I could almost taste the dust and feel the heat in some of the scenes. A bit jarring to have a story told in an order known only to the director but I dutifully followed along as it tied together and everyone connected.I'm positioned by the camera too close to faces of people in the apartment and I don't like the smell of fear and sweat. While this repetitive tale was overkill on murder and machismo,I don't complain for some reason. Perhaps in my drive-through bank and sushi world this is what I needed to see in order to understand life doesn't change in the city of god,everyone dies and childhood ends when you can walk and hold a gun.A going away party and then you die....
2003-03-06
Unmoved (some small spoilers)
This film has been executed with considerable skill - 10/10 for visual and storytelling style. It is brilliant, expert and flawless in its execution.

Much of the style is stolen from Scorcese movies, as unashamedly as the characters in the film steal money. I don't mind that, as there's plenty of original invention - I particularly liked a scene in the a room where the time fades from one part of the story to the next, with the room's decor changing, but the camera angle was fixed. Although, I'm sure someone will tell me that wasn't original either. The use of freeze-frame with subtitle is tired now, as it's been done by so many Scorcese wanna-bes in the last 15 years.

So this was all very impressive - except I didn't care about any of the characters. I don't know how accurately this is based on the "true story", but if the real characters can dispatch each other as carelessly as their fictional versions, and think of nothing but screwing, stealing or killing, I think they must be rather boring company.

Much of the action focuses on a man called Li'l Ze who, we are shown, kills people and enjoys it, from a very early age. Why he enjoys it is a question not entertained here, and so he comes across as a rather bland killing machine; at one point, shooting a comrade on the spot for talking to him in an annoying way. I wasn't sure if this was supposed to be a comedy moment - it certainly came across as one.

The one character who isn't obsessed with killing and stealing is the narrator, Busca-Pé, who's ambition is to become a photographer. But he's not really involved in the story, except to be in the right place at the right time to be able to recount it for our benefit. We never see Busca-Pé have much of an effect on events, or express much of an opinion, or even express much emotionally during the constant slaughter. He seems more concerned about losing his virginity than anything else.

The way women are portrayed in this film is questionable. They are either objects of sex, having sex, talking about sex, being raped, or being beaten by their men. At no point do we hear what the women of the City of God express their thoughts or feelings on this hellish world in which they exist.

In fact, nearly all, if not all, of the characters in this movie appear entirely soulless. Are we supposed to sympathise with Li'l Ze's best friend because he doesn't kill people as wantonly as the rest? Am I supposed to feel empathy for this man because he occasionally persuades Li'l Ze to spare someone's life (meanwhile, coming across as a fairly easy-going chap - something of an achievement, considering the countless killings he's been involved in)?

No matter how skillfully this film was made, how well acted, how perfectly constructed, as the body-counted mounted, like the characters in the movie, I didn't really care.
2005-06-07
Just really an average gang movie
I cannot say it is a bad movie. Actually it is one of the best i have seen lately... I went to the movies when the movie first came to my country, I didn't like it very much. Yesterday I wanted to see it again, because may be i couldn't understand it when i was 16 or 17 when i first saw it. I played the DVD tonight, and yes, i really hadn't catch quite the movie 5 years ago. Now I did, but that doesn't made me love it. Yes, the story was quite original and the director did a good job, but in my opinion this isn't enough for a movie to qualify in the top 20 of the greatest movies here... Leandro Firmino(Li'l Ze) performs great and deserves a high praise, but can it really compare to the performance of, for example, Al Pacino in Heat (160 positions under City of God in Top250). This is ridiculous. It is quite unfair that foreign language movies are rated so high, just because they are not American. I really don't mean to offend anyone. I still think the movie is good, but still cannot compare to much more valuable movies which even didn't make it to the top250. As I already said it is just an average gangster movie. And please don't judge my opinion, cause everyone has the right to like or not like a movie, no matter if it is in the top20...
2007-03-15
One of the most impressive (not to mention important) films of the last few years
The title "City of God" is steeped in irony, which becomes all too apparent to the viewer within minutes of watching this. Despite a few points of stylistic influence (namely "Goodfellas"), "City of God" is one of the most memorable films of the new millennium. It uses the sort of flashy editing and quick cuts made popular in mainstream cinema. While this technique can be very tiresome and headache inducing (witness anything by Michael Bay or McG), it can occasionally be used for good effect. To truly capture the frantic danger of the slums of Rio de Janeiro you need truly kinetic film-making to complement it. This film is a triumph in that sense. The film becomes quickly paced as all hell but to its own advantage. You often feel as if you're the center of the action presented on screen. In addition to the mind-blowing style of the film, it actually has an engrossing story to tell with interesting and sympathetic characters.

A film such as this needs a sense of epic for the proceedings to truly work. Therefor we follow the characters throughout the years and through the good times and bad. Despite how horrible the actions they commit, we really get a sense of feel for every person in the film. "City of God" is a completely (and sadly) realistic work. Hopefully this film will call attention to what is taking place in the favelas, because its an unfortunate situation that has been devoid of amnesty for too long. "City of God" is slightly flawed (it can become confusing occasionally and the style grows slightly thin towards the end), but overall its one of the most impressive (not to mention important) films of the last few years. (8/10)
2006-12-27
Simple life in a horrible world
I finally got around to watching this much praised movie, and I can certainly understand why so many people have found it fascinating. It is very well done in a technical aspect, and it's easy to be seduced by the way it looks and the constant flow of action scenes, not very different from the efficiency of some glossy & clever commercial. It also shows a way of life and a part of the world that is not very well known to many outsiders, thereby invoking some sense of illumination. Unfortunately, looking beyond the interesting setting & the glossy surface there's not a lot to be found.

In 'Cidade de Deus' we follow some dirt poor kids who live as brutal gangsters in a shanty town part of the Brazilian city Rio de Janeiro. The kids need money, so they steal, they deal in drugs and they kill. This is the basic plot for the movie. And then what, you may ask? Well, then there's … sadly, pretty much nothing more. What we get here is just a grim world contained within itself, where people perform a lot of horrible acts without really wondering why or thinking about any options or consequences. Now somebody could argue that this is actually the way that many people handle such savage situations, and so this movie is just portraying them in a realistic way. But even then, a filmmaker telling a dramatic story has many opportunities to put things into a broader context and he/she can make the choice to give the audience a more multi-layered view without embellishing anything. If you've seen something like the excellent TV mini-series 'The Corner' you know what I'm talking about.

'Cidade de Deus' makes no attempt to explain why these kids don't have any other opportunities than a life of violent crime, so there's no real critique of the society that produces this horrible condition. Without even a glimpse of the reasons for this, you cannot give any real insight into the desperation that drives the characters to behave in the gruesome ways that they do. Instead it comes across as something that's inevitable and almost natural. Like wild animals eating each other, not because they're forced to by special circumstances that could be changed, but simply because it is their instinct. As we all know this will seldom apply to human beings since our existence is much more complex. Any such complexity is totally missing here. In addition there's not much effort made to show the devastating effects that drugs & brutality has on the human soul. Most of the times when something really awful happens in the story, like children becoming killers or getting killed, it's rapidly followed by some non-emotional scene with some cool music and flashy editing. There's no grieving for the victims, the movie is over 2 hours long & the director spends about 30 seconds of that time showing family members shattered by this unnecessary loss of life, which means there's no depiction of the deep sorrow & hopelessness that extreme poverty & violence creates. We get little or no reflection, just one gun-blasting action followed by another & then another. A lot of stuff for eyes & ears, less for hearts & brains.

So 'Cidade de Deus' is a film that looks very good. But for me to agree with IMDb placing it among the top 20 ever made (we're talking higher than 'Citizen Kane', 'Apocalypse Now' & 'The Seventh Seal'), the director's ability to convey the depth of human beings should at least be equal to his flair for technical tricks & brilliance. This is truly far from the case here. I rate it 5/10 for the cinematography & editing and for showing a small piece of a harsh reality without blinders, but for me it felt more like an ordinary action movie than an epic masterpiece.
2007-09-11
A Mindblowing Masterpiece!
This movie is absolutely amazing! It is a cinematic tour de force. It is undoubtedly one of the top ten best movies ever made. Comparable to American masterpieces such as Goodfellas or Pulp Fiction. But it is its own unique film.

It is based on a true story of one boys desperate attempt to survive and escape the city of god (the slums of Rio de Janeiro) a truly brutal and violent place. A place where murders, holdups, drugs, and criminals are commonplace.

This film announces the presences of a truly talented filmmaker, Fernando Meirelles. He directs this film with a ferocious, frantic, intensity perfectly merging every aspect of the film. He uses many different filming tricks from split screen to freeze frame. Each one is used at exactly the right time for the exact right reasons.

All of this combines to make an unforgettably perfect cinematic masterpiece that i highly recommend. 10/10 A++
2005-05-04
Breathtaking
City of God is the name of a city in the slums of Rio de Janeiro where this movie takes place. It tells the story of what its like living and growing up in a city where violence is common and drug lords had more power than the police.

By the short synopsis I just gave, one might think that this is a dark and horrific film to watch. While some scenes containing violence are scary, others are not and that is what is interesting about this film. Sound largely influences the film, upbeat music plays while a drug lord shoots a child, the drug gang smiles big for a picture each one slinging an assault rifle, kids becoming soldiers is celebrated… This film is shocking in the various ways that it tries to desensitize its audience to murder, rape, and drugs. In this way, the film truly attempts to get its audience to understand how common these tragedies were in the City of God.

Although a violent movie, there are times when the mise en scene is absolutely breathtaking. Taking place in Rio de Janeiro, the sun is shining and the beaches are hot. When the movie cuts to the beaches, we see a happier and safer City of God. These scenes are not long because the film tries to maintain that nobody is truly ever safe if they live in the City of God. I highly recommend this thought provoking movie to anyone.
2017-10-16
The gangs of Rio
Quentin Tarantino, eat your heart out! At least in this film they outshot you big time. Watching this film is difficult at times. The violence is to such a degree, the viewer has a problem seating through it.

Director Fernando Meirelles has an eye for realism and detail. The most disturbing thing about City of God is the fact that the killers are children playing adult games before they can be children. It is a well known fact that these kids' gangs created terror, not only in the favelas where they lived, which was unfortunate, but they mugged, robbed and just plain terrorized the big cities in Brazil. News about street children being shot in the streets of Rio or Sao Paolo were perceived as criminal because of the ages, but one can get a clearer picture in this film by coming to the realization these same children were killing real grown ups and getting away with murder.

The only problem I had with this film is with the English subtitles. Sometimes, one doesn't know who's who. To make matters worse, the principal character grows from a young boy into a photographer who looks like a small boy himself.

The plots and subplots are somehow hard to follow at times. The great accomplishment for the director is that he never preaches. He shows the world what went on at that particular time. The realism is extended to the way we see in gory details the corpses of the slain gang members. If Hollywood would have presented scenes that are so hard to take as these, many would be criminals would have been able to see first hand what bullets do to human beings: they kill!
2003-02-07
The Three-Body Problem
Spoilers herein.

The first choice a modern filmmaker has to make is deciding who is the camera. Everything flows from that decision, inheriting already maturing visual vocabularies for each path chosen. It's very hard to be novel today: most interesting projects come from careful integration of a novel eye with a novel narrative stance - parallels, time reversals, untrusted narrators, etc. But here is something new, thanks to the creative incubator of Brazilian TeeVee commercials, one of the more vital pockets of popular art around.

In this case, we have three characters: a narrator/photographer, a dancer, and a `pusher' who literally pushes the linear logic each step at a time. Each of these is represented by a camera philosophy (and accompanying editing style) which are mixed up helter-skelter. The most obvious is the notion of the `running camera' which sometimes looks at the road or away as it moves in frenzy.

This is interspersed with a rhythmic camera. This camera (Benny's eye) is the one that permeated most: it is reasonable yet hedonistic. In the first few seconds, we are introduced to these two in masterful composition: the observing, recording chicken who subsequently runs with a following POV. This is mixed with the aggressive logic of rhythm. If opening shots are promises, this is a strong promise. Over time, the third eye is folded in, literally a folding of linear stories. Each is tightly linear until it hits a node, then goes off on a tangent or a new direction usually paralleling something already seen. Garrison Keiller is the master practitioner of this sort of storytelling; not chopped Clancey-style; not shuffled Tarantino-like; but direct until hitting a capricious nexus, then direct again.

All three are shooters. The story is irrelevant: kids killing kids, albeit sometimes viscerally. The characters are literally disposable. The experience is nominally about the place, but it is really about how we are shown the place. I do not think this will reinvent film like a few projects have (from Welles, Tarkovsky, Greenaway, Kurosawa, even recently Luhrmann) but it is a visual adventure worth taking and a fresh experience.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 4: Worth watching.
2003-03-09
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