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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Aquarius

Sonia Braga gives a bravura performance in Aquarius, a 2016 Brazilian film written and directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho. The film itself is sprawling and touches on many themes, and was politically controversial in Brazil, with many calling for boycotts. I don't know why this is, I guess you have to be Brazilian.

The film's main conflict is that Braga, a widow in her 60s, is the last hold out of an old, classic building on the beach called the Aquarius. She refuses all offers of a buy out, and stubbornly remains the last person in the building. The construction company that owns the place is represented by a grandfather and his grandson, who is the architect, who want to build the "New Aquarius." The grandson, handsome, well-mannered, and American educated, is revealed to be ruthless, and Braga tells him that with education not necessarily comes decency.

I liked this film, even though it has stray edges. A prologue with a younger actress playing Braga's character has her on the beach playing a new song to her family: Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" (she is a music critic). At a party for her aunt's 70th birthday, we learn that the character has survived breast cancer, which I imagine is to let us know that if she can beat the big C, she doesn't find a construction company tough. But there is also a lingering on a cabinet that appears throughout the film, in which the aunt remembers having sex on. We don't see the aunt again.

It's simple to boil this film down to a tribute to the old and nostalgic. Braga could make far above market value for the apartment, and even her children wonder at her behavior. The company tries to get her out by throwing wild parties, smearing shit on the stairs, and even putting termites in the building. What is keeping her there? Memories?

I think a key scene is one in which an interviewer asks her if she dislikes digital music (her apartment is full of vinyl records). She replies that she has nothing against it, but to prove her love for vinyl, pulls out a copy of John Lennon's Double Fantasy. She bought it at a used record store, and inside found a clipping of an article from the L.A. Times interviewing Lennon just days before his murder. She says that this music is an object, something that can not be true of a download from iTunes. I know many people my age miss the action of holding a record album cover in their hands while they listen to a record. It's not even the same as a CD case.

So, is older better? Aquarius would suggest that it is, but this is only the case with architecture and music. I'm not qualified to speak to Brazilian politics.

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