A Brazilian avant-garde director who made many movies that explore Brazil, its politics or history. He also adopted his unique approach for other locations such as
Rome and Africa. One trademark is the heavy use of folk and traditional music and dance, using long scenes of complete performances and songs to express a culture.
He increasingly used actors as allegories, symbols and archetypes, often using strangely mythical characters to represent the poor, the rich, the politician, the corrupted
power, the good spiritual guides, the warped church, and the saint. Religious influences and political polemics deliver heavy notes in his movies, and he uses theatrics,
emotions and symbols to present a viewpoint rather than a narrative, pure ideas or artsy abstractions. His archetype actors act out dramatically, using body language,
behaviour, visual symbols, histrionics, song or poetry to convey a single idea or viewpoint, after which the movie moves on to the next presentation. This use of
avant-garde theatrics increased with time until it reached the over-the-top approach of Carmelo Bene. Most of his works consist of obvious symbolism and theatrics
with the occasional touch of surrealism, and only the strangest movies are included here. Died in 1981.
The history and politics of Brazil told through symbolic, mythical characters, a bit like a political and simpler El Topo. Antonio is a strong killer of Cangaceiro
(bandit leaders) who once had idealism on his side, as well as land barons, religion, and power. When he is asked by an old land baron to kill a Cangaceiro that has
arisen, Antonio thinks he found a renewed meaning in his life, but instead is confronted by an idealistic leader who is trying to save the poor of Brazil, a
mysterious saintly woman who follows him with chastising words and prophetic insights, corrupt men in power, all fighting over a woman, and an unhelpful Catholic priest.
A strange sword-fight over a piece of cloth is followed by much soul-searching, and sudden bursts of Western-style shootouts. The movie makes its political viewpoints clear
despite the strange symbolism, and frequently gets lost in endless scenes of historical or cultural music and dance. A unique, interesting and successful cinematic
approach, but also sometimes dull. A sequel to Black God, White Devil.
Antonio das Mortes
Early effort from Rocha that sets the tone and approach of later movies and is considered a classic in Brazil. Many elements of Brazilian society are in conflict:
There's the poor, suffering cowherd who lashes out to kill his cruel rancher-boss, a strange black priest who takes the cowherd through many trials that reflect Jesus
and Abraham's sacrifice, a tortured and driven bandit outlaw, and Antonio das Mortes, the outlaw killer who is pressured by the church and powerful men. Everyone
is sure they are on the side of good. The middle plodding hour of the movie wanders off into very slight surrealism and mystical symbolism. An allegory in the form
of a fictional folk-story.
Black God, White Devil
Rocha's last film is a culmination of his avant-garde cinematic language, portraying Brazil in a series of scenes, painting a cinematographic postcard of the country
with a barrage of dances, parties, songs, theatrics, discussions and speeches on Brazil's history and politics, religious scenes, overacting actors as society's
archetypes, bizarre and avant-garde performances involving archetypes and symbols (one example involves three strangely insane men, a rabbit, a bird, a tv, and the
burning of a globe). Whereas his previous film Claro took the final step into focusing on avant-garde actors, didactic speeches, arguments and symbolic theatrics
while throwing out the narrative, this movie is so unstructured, Rocha allegedly planned to allow projectionists to show the reels in different sequences. This madness
and energy has by now reached Carmelo Bene proportions. Of interest perhaps to avant-garde and art-house nuts, but the movie is annoyingly insane, unrewarding, and
Age of the Earth, The
Another allegorical political attack by Rocha, this one in heavily accented Spanish and dealing with tyranny. Diaz is a rich, eccentric despot who is in charge
of the world, claiming to have extinguished volcanoes, arranging big events (over multiple phones) engineered to maintain his power, repressing and abusing the local
peasants, and arranging for the disposal or favoritism of specific races and classes. His lifestyle and viewpoint is challenged by a scythe-carrying miracle-worker
who heals the wise peasants, and a saintly woman. His surreal/symbolic outings, most of which are obvious in their message, include endless abusive treatment of
a peasant aided by two medieval knights, a single-handed attack on a truckload of armed revolutionary peasants, endless crawling and living in the mud while
flirting with a girl and admiring art while a horse neighs in the background, an homage to Dali with clocks and an egg on the beach, and other strangely artsy
or theatrical scenes. Fragmented, and interspersed with the usual Rocha lengthy scenes of traditional songs and dances.