Colors (Cores): San Sebastian Review

Colors Film Still - H 2012
Stylized study of São Paulo hipsters offers an intriguingly offbeat perspective on booming Brazil.

Pedro di Pietro, Simone Iliescu and Acauã Sol star in Francisco Garcia's Sao Paulo mood piece.

San Sebastian's lucrative New Directors competition seeks to showcase the filmmaking stars of tomorrow - and, on the evidence of his moody debut Colors (Cores), Brazil's Francisco Garcia should enter many notebooks as a name to watch. Deliberately low on plot but strong on character and atmosphere, his black-and-white study of three São Paulo slackers wears its Jim Jarmusch influence very proudly on its carefully distressed sleeves, but is a rather more than just another slavish hommage to Akron's leading cinematic export. Lack of star-power spells strictly marginal appeal at domestic box-offices, but a strong guitar-rock soundtrack will boost VOD downloads and festivals dedicated to unearthing fresh talent will definitely want to check it out.

Credited as director, co-writer (with Gabriel Campos) and co-editor (with André Gevaerd), 32-year-old Paulista shows sides of his home city - the southern hemisphere's most populated metropolis -  that would probably dismay the city's tourist authorities. Indeed, with Brazil in the international spotlight thanks to its recent economic emergence, plus its double-whammy of hosting both the soccer World Cup and the Olympics in the next few years, Garcia is one of several directors providing a welcome corrective to prevailing boosterism.

REVIEW: 'Cold War'

Because while politicians may crow on TV about the nation's "development growth" in "an era of employment" and brag that Brazil has bucked the post-2008 global downturn, not much of the money trickles down to the likes of Luca (Pedro di Pietro) or his best friends, lovers Luara (Simone Iliescu) and Luiz (Acauã Sol). Each of the thirtyish trio, their alliterative names presumably an ironic in-joke reference to former president Lula, has a meager source of income: lanky, bespectacled Luca is a tattoo-artist, Luara works in a tropical-fish store, Luiz is a small-time drug dealer. As Luca puts it, however: "look around us: no-one is on track." He spends most of his time mooching around the apartment he shares with his aged grandmother Marlene (Maria Célia Camargo), with occasional visits to Luara's pad - situated right next to the runways of a bustling city airport. But although Luara is tantalized by the possibility of escape - she's even carrying on an affair with an older airline pilot (Guilherme Leme) - she's becalmed by the torpid inertia that seems to be a part of the atmosphere.

Rather than emphasizing the grimness of their protagonists' woes, Garcia and Campos play the glum, Beckettian stasis for deadpan laughs, deploying droll repetitions and deft visual gags which often involve Marlene's ancient, ambling pet tortoise.  Garcia signals his debt to Jarmusch very early on by showing a poster for the director's seminal Stranger Than Paradise on Luca's wall - and as is often the case with Jarmusch's own movies - Colors works as a series of discrete vignettes cobbled together to reach feature length. 

And if this is primarily an exercise in self-conscious, hipster style - which, on balance, it is - then Garcia shows sufficient flair to pull it off, even though his choice to end most scenes with a slow fade to black chiefly serves to sap momentum. Crucial assistance is consistently provided by experimental electronic composer Wilson Sukorski's spiky, punk-fuelled soundtrack, with sequences of effective counterpointing from doomy, bassy susurrations or sonorous classical strings (for the fish-store sequences). But the MVP is the DoP: Alziro Barbosa's widescreen digital cinematography is a scuzzy wonder of inky blacks and grimy grey-whites that immerses us in the picture's monochrome miasma.

Venue: San Sebastian - Donostia Film Festival (New Directors), September 27, 2012.

Production companies: Kinoosfera, Dezenove
Cast: Pedro di Pietro, Simone Iliescu, Acauã Sol, Maria Célia Camargo, Guilherme Leme, Tonico Pereira
Director: Francisco Garcia
Screenwriters: Francisco Garcia, Gabriel Campos
Producer: Sara Silveira, André Gevaerd
Executive producers: Guilherme Pinheiro, Maria Ionescu
Director of photography: Alziro Barbosa
Production designer: Monica Palazzo
Music: Wilson Sukorski
Editors: André Gevaerd, Francisco Garcia

Sales agent: Alpha Violet, Paris
No MPAA rating, 96 minutes