Still Orangutans

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AFI Fest

A conceptual and technical exercise wedded to a loose storyline, "Still Orangutans" features a single continuous shot over its entire 81-minute running time (recorded with an HD camera on an attached hard drive).

Lively handheld cinematography and peculiar plot threads generate enough interest to make the film more than a strictly formal experiment. Although theatrically released in Brazil, exhibition beyond the festival circuit and educational settings is unlikely elsewhere.

The narrative apparently begins at sunrise in the southern city of Porto Alegre (although the filmmakers actually cheat sunset for sunrise to compress the passage of time) as an Asian couple rides a commuter train. As they near their stop, the man is unable to awake his female companion from an evident stupor and becomes alarmed as blood trickles from her mouth. When none of the other passengers offers assistance, he alights at the next station, leaving the woman on the train while the camera follows him.

As their daily wanderings intersect, each character passes the storyline along to the next in relay fashion, including an enterprising young soccer fan, a flirtatious lesbian couple, an emotionally disturbed woman, an amorous heterosexual pair, a delusional writer and finally a violent, jealous lover.

Adapted from seven short stories contained in the similarly titled collection by Paulo Scott, the plot maintains the episodic arrangement of the source material, following everyday events that often take odd turns that are alternately dramatic, comedic and realistic. Overall, the understated performances suggest actual city dwellers and although characters overlap, there's little direct interaction shaping events.

With limited narrative structure, the technical execution of the real-time shot becomes the film's principal throughline. The agile, restless camerawork appears entirely handheld, as director Gustavo Spolidero guides the crew and characters through the sequence. While camera movement around the locations and actors sometimes draws attention to the film's formal constraints, the technique is more immersive than distracting.

The filmmakers shot the sequence a half-dozen times and selected the best take before adding a vigorous score of Brazilian rock and punk, along with limited sound design.

Although interesting to watch for its technical challenges and ingenuity, "Still Orangutans" is ultimately more a curiosity than a fully engaging feature film.

Production company: Clube Silencio
Cast: Karina Kazue, Lindon Shimizu, Kayode Da Silva, Janaina Kremer, Renata De Lelis, Artur Pinto.
Director: Gustavo Spolidero.
Screenwriters: Gibran Dipp, Gustavo Spolidero, Paulo Scott.
Producers: Cristiane Oliviera, Fabiano De Souza, Gilson Vargas, Milton Do Prado, Gustavo Spolidero.
Executive producers: Jaqueline Beltrame, Camila Groch.
Director of photography: Juliano Lopes Fortes.
Costume designer: Caca Velasco.
No rating, 81 minutes.

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