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City of God
Brazil, France
Crime, Drama
IMDB rating:
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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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.
Kids With Guns
'City Of God' is not an easy film to watch, nor is it an easy film to like. Were it not for the stark reality that permeates most of the production, this could have been a modern zombie flick. None of the characters in this movie are really alive anyway. They're the walking dead, living each moment with the threat of death knocking holes in their front door. The actors do the best they can with powerful material that offers them no real hope. As I said, zombie flick.

After 2002's searing documentary, 'Bowling For Columbine', it seems a little ghoulish to see a movie filled to the brim with shots of kids with guns. And they use their guns oh so casually, killing at will. It's not easy to make a viewer immune to the sight of a child brandishing a gun, let alone firing it, let alone shooting it at people. Repeatedly. After a while, I wasn't appalled anymore. 'City Of God' is relentless in its offhand violence, proving once again that ghetto conditions breed desperation and murder. Perhaps that's truthful. In fact, I have no doubt that this movie is bang-on.

That's the rub. For every moment of authenticity, there's one of over-the-top brutality. Is it over the top, however, if it's trying to be factual? I'm not sure. See, I can't say I liked this film, but the energy and raw power brought forth is admirable. Certain audiences should see it (not children, not the weak-stomached), but they need to be forewarned of how rough things get. Director Fernando Meirelles puts the camera literally into the action (think 'Saving Private Ryan' in Brazil) and doesn't allow you to view the horrors from a safe distance.

So why am I reserved about this film? Violence in movies doesn't usually bother me. Maybe it's that I found it difficult to relate to the characters. I have never experienced the squalor or pain they experience on a daily basis. And---I have to be honest---I had a hard time keeping everybody straight. Once the film gets going and it settles into the '70s time frame after jumping around a lot, that problem goes away. Still, I was supposed to be engaged from minute one and it took a little longer for me to get warmed up.

The young, unknown cast is solid. They're not good enough to be etched in my memory, although Alice Braga (as Angelica) is one of the most beautiful girls I've seen in years. Since the actors are portraying biographical characters, they're already limited in what they can do. Meirelles rings genuine emotions from the legions of kids in this picture, who probably had a blast pretending to be a kill-crazy street gang.

I think I'd get into the story and the characters more with a second viewing. But is it worth seeing again? Perhaps. I'd probably never enjoy it, though. There's something cynical going on here, a gloomier resolution than what's in similar subject matter (such as 'Boyz N The Hood'). That film is a tragedy, this one is a tragedy of such extreme proportions that you know nothing can save the people---especially the innocent---in the city of God. Judging by how popular the movie is with audiences worldwide, I'm in the minority here. All I can hope for is that this film illuminates this gangland mentality that we see in all downtrodden cities. If the film helps to correct that issue, it will indeed have served a valuable purpose. I recommend 'City Of God', just not very strongly.
Great Rental Movie Along the Lines of 'American History X'
This is a great rental movie similar to American History X. Both were movies I didn't expect much of, but the narratives become so engrossing, you're surprised you hadn't heard more praise about them. They both ride tightly spun narratives and culminate with satisfying climaxes. If you haven't seen it, this is a great movie to rent and better ultimately than you'd expect.

City of God
Directors Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund showcase the dangers of growing up in a lawless city crawling with gangsters and corrupted government, in their 2002 film City of God. The film underscores the reality of Rio de Janeiro's youth, and captures the experience of a group of young boys growing up in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. Juxtaposing the coming of age narrative of the group of young boys with the not so innocent gangsters creates an atmosphere of chaos as the two opposing figures fight for the viewers attention. The film often calls us to question, "Why return to the city of God, where God forgets about you?" In this lawless city, the every man is God because it's every man for himself—the gangsters are untouchable because they bribe the cops, and the civilians must decide whether or not honesty is worth the risk of death.

Many of the shots in this film are taken at either a high or low angle shots in order to depict power or weakness. The gangsters are often shot with low angle shots because it makes them seem more powerful and dangerous, while the civilians and even the police officers are shot at a high angle to show how inferior they are to the gangsters. The directors really take you on a journey to see how the other half of the world lives.

The narrator, Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues) guides us through the survival of this lawless city. In the City of God you either become a gangster or you live in extreme poverty. The only way to power is by killing and dealing. Danger is ever present, so many of the characters carry around a gun. Except Rocket, instead of a gun he uses a camera. His camera is his way out of the slums, with his dream of becoming a professional photographer he quickly finds himself in dangerous situations in order to get the perfect shot. The film starts with Rocket hoping to avoid the head gangster, Li'l Zé, but he finds himself in the middle of a shoot out. The camera then begins to spin in a chaotic manor. The director films this scene in this way in order to emphasize the danger Rocket is in, as the camera continues to spin Rocket becomes a young boy. He states that in order to tell his story he must first tell the story of the three most dangerous gangsters The City of God has ever seen.

As to whether or not the characters make it out of the City of God, we do not know, but what is certain is that with Rockets camera work, we the viewers, are forever closer to the City of God he captures on film.
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.
The Review for City of God
Normally Brazilian cinema is strong in good comedy but rather unhappy with respect to dramatic films. However, this film is quite different. Most of the action takes place in one of the largest and most dangerous areas of Rio de Janeiro, the so-called "favela" Cidade de Deus (favela is the name that Brazilians give to the slums, where the poorest live, in the midst of total misery). There, people live alongside with crime, knowing that it may be the last day of their lives and having few opportunities to rise in life. In fact, this is not a movie thing, this is reality. The film merely uses reality to stage a story in which two young people take different life paths: one ends up becoming a photographer and the other becomes a drug dealer. These stories are fiction but they are very similar to the lives of immense young people who live in that place. And that's the great advantage of this deeply shocking movie: we know it's all fiction but it could be true.
The best Brazilian movie ever made !
A film that portrays the life of the poor Brazilian class, mainly from Rio de Janeiro, portrayed by locals themselves, amateur actors and did a great job, many revealed to the great Brazilian entertainment industry. The film has excellent direction, fantastic subjective elements, and time does not continue in a single line, the director approaches different moments in different times of the film. Amazing. This film was a great revolution in Brazilian cinema, it was nominated for international awards, which for the Brazilian film industry was new.A great film to know the reality of the poor class, and the history of the city of God, favela of the rio.
Degraded perspective about degradation in a polished videoclip packaging
My opinion on this movie has rapidly degraded as hours and days passed by. I too, as the movie progressed, got involved in the neat technical package, and violence in itself was not so disturbing... you know, we are civilized 21st century men! we love violence (when we are not directly involved with it), plus we love violent movies and this one, well,was just a punch to the stomach a bit harder than the previous ones. And then the story, ooh, it was so wisely penned! with that delicious ironic look à-la Tarantino to smooth the edges of the bullet holes.

But after a couple of days I focused my thoughts and decided that I did not like it. I found it disquieting. Not because of the violence and degradation depicted. I'm partially editing my previous comment just because I know that the average 20 y.o. boy (who is, I think the average and perfect audience for this movie) is not able to understand a subtler critical stance about violence in movies and only thinks "hey, violence exists so why movies should not show that?", and that's the reason why such a movie is currently ranked as the 18th best movie in the History of Cinema. Makes me think that when internet will be accessible by all 6 y.o. children, "The Lion King" will quickly surpass this pretentious movie.

So what's wrong with violence in THIS movie? It's the way that the director has chosen to treat it. Can you show kids aged 8 that roam through the streets killing light-hearted and selling drugs? Yes, it's not shocking to show that, it sure happens for real in some damned place of humanity. Can you show kids aged 8 who smell death with terror in their eyes (the real terror, like only kids can feel) before getting shot because they have crossed paths with some leading gang? Yes, it's horrible but it probably happens for real. Can you take all this nauseating stuff about our refined societies and bring it on screen packaging it like an MTV videoclip? big show, hip music, special effects, frenzied camera movements? Yes, you can, but you risk total failure in delivering your message. If Meirelles' and the like's intention was to point their fingers at this degradation and tell the world "Look at what it's happening! How can it be possible that we are not able to change all this?", and they wanted to attain this with the lighter feeling of irony... well, then they totally failed! With their opportunistic art they have just shown to be a mechanism of the social processes that lead to that same degradation.

How many of these "10 star-brilliant-astonishing-movie" people still bring in their stomachs the look of those kids after the coke and pop-corn have been digested? This is the point: this movie is just like a fireworks show with no moral queue, and the only sensational thing about it is the way it misses the real targets... politicians, police, businessmen and foreign governments. And as for the presumed realism... please, don't make me laugh: just learn that "spectacular" and "realistic" are antonyms.
Not my taste.
The film is a marvel at depicting criminal behavior in youth microcosms, but it's also one of the ugliest films I've seen. It's very dark and dreary set in the dismal and bleak streets of Rio. I was nauseated after a while by watching the jerky often disjointed plot. The editing was effective, but it looked like they made things difficult for themselves to cram so much info and footage with the various subplots. Pseudo-documentary is alright. But I agree that I also didn't care for any of the characters except for Rocket. None of them inspire any sympathy. But then again who would want to depict these people as anything better than the dregs of the earth.
City of God Spoilers!!!!
With the name city of god, you would expect a more upbeat movie that is based around religion. Instead the movie depicts the horrors of organized crime in the suburb of Rio de Janeiro in the 1970s. As the movie continues you to begin to see a pattern occur for many of the people that live in this area. As characters are raised in these in violet areas they eventually become violent themselves. It becomes a viscous cycle of a constant struggle of power for each generation since they see the power and money that could be obtained if they go into organized crime. This is seen in the ending where the character "Lil Zé is murdered by his own gang members since he lost some of his power and showed the children who murdered him how to obtain power in organized crime. This ending particularly shows that the city is never going to fix itself. It will have another generation that will become more violent and strive for power like the beginnings of Lil Zé career. This gives the characters in the city of god to run away from the city or to commit crimes.

While this theme is worth watching the movie by itself, it has a unique cinematography where every scene feels it is in a pseudo- documentary that follows the life of two characters which are Rocket and Lil Zé. When they are children the entire scene uses a light and kind of goldish tone to every shot. But as they grow up the lighter tone becomes darker. This helps show the innocence of the children has faded away as all of them has at least scene or commit serious crimes. This film entirely is an excellent film which is worth seeing due to its brilliant cinematography and themes.
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