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A grief-struck triptych about loss, looking, and parental clairvoyance, The Moving Creatures is an austere art film with one foot dipped in musical theater. In his debut feature after a decade-long string of shorts, Sao Paolo-trained Caetano Gotardo remains reluctant to embrace a broad narrative, offering episodes connected in theme and locale but sharing no characters or action. The result is a niche effort to be sure, but one with enough character to attract notice at arthouses, displaying a sensibility that may develop into something genuinely distinctive.
Especially in its first chapter, in which two teens walk separately through a park on a mission to stare intently at whatever they happen upon, the picture’s attention span is long enough to seem at moments like a challenge. Will you, dear viewer, keep watching this for as long as I show it to you? But this episode takes a stark turn eventually, with dramatic events leading to the sight of a shaken mother (Cida Moreira) sitting at a detective’s desk in a police station. There, after sitting for a few moments, she begins to sing her testimony. Her voice is weak and tear-choked, but bystanders freeze in tableaux behind her, moving only in restrained choreography, as if in deference to her grief.
Loss permeates the second chapter, in which a recording engineer is suffering a weird spiritual sickness — “some anguish, a kind of void.” He slept badly the night before, he notes, furthering the picture’s interest in how much characters sleep, and when, and how they occupy themselves until they will sleep again. Here, for the unlikeliest of reasons, actress Andrea Marquee will sing a fairly beautiful song praising the video game Dance Dance Revolution.
The final scenario, in which a married couple meet the teenage son who was stolen from them at birth, is on its face a happy one. But Gotardo glosses over none of the encounter’s built-in awkwardness, and has his characters seek strange refuge in TV footage of gymnasts testing their poise on balance beams. Here, the musical number (again, more lovely than the one before) is performed in a public bathroom, to no audience.
The three songs, by Gotardo and composer Marco Dutra, have melodies complex enough to hold their own in a smart Broadway musical, but the film deploys them in settings as dry and unromantic as Heloisa Passos‘s cinematography is throughout. The interface between a mother’s depth of feeling for her son and the world of practical realities they inhabit is a fraught psychic zone, the picture seems to suggest. Uncomfortable things happen when that love is interrupted.
Production companies: Dezenove Som e Imagens Producoes, Filmes do Caixote
Cast: Cida Moreira, Romulo Braga, Andrea Marquee, Henrique Schafer, Fernanda Vianna
Director-Screenwriter: Caetano Gotardo
Producer: Sara Silveira
Executive producer: Maria Ionescu
Director of photography: Heloisa Passos
Production designer: Luana Demange
Costume designer: Cassio Brasil
Editor: Juliana Rojas
Music: Marco Dutra, Caetano Gotardo, Ramiro Murillo
Casting directors: Maria Clara Escobar, Lara Lima
No rating, 97 minutes
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