Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Cine Fest Brasil NY ’11: 180°

Even in Brazil, publishing is a dodgy business. For the sake of publicity, an author agrees to pretend his story of a writer, much like himself, plundering a found notebook for ideas is based on fact. The only hitch is it really is true, at least to extent. The veracity of the authorship of his book might be a bit murky, but the love triangle is real enough in Eduardo Vaisman’s 180° (trailer here), which screens during Inffinito’s 2011 Cine Fest Brasil in New York.

Bernardo is not thrilled with the new title his editor Anna gives his manuscript: 180°. He also has deep reservations about her publicity plans, since they hit awfully close to home. However, he is eager to capitalize on their time spent working together. Of course, their resulting passionate affair strains Bernardo’s relationship with former colleague Russell, Anna’s ex. Yet, they all try to let bygones be bygones as Anna and Bernardo arrive for a Big Chill weekend at Russell’s orange orchard. In fact, Bernardo has more pressing issues on his mind than conventional jealousy. As he confides to Russell, he has been getting threatening notes from the original owner of the fateful notebook.

Fortunately, a John Shooter character never shows up to accuse Bernardo of “stealing his story,” because if 180° started lifting material from Secret Window, taking stock of the film would really get complicated. As it is, Vaisman’s film is probably too tricky for its own good, relentlessly doubling back and flashing forward. Frankly, it boasts an original premise (pardon the expression) and a complex three-way love dynamic, which are sufficient raw material for an engaging film.

Indeed, Vaisman largely privileges style over substance. Viewers often find themselves pulled out of the film, forced to puzzle out where in the timeline each new scene occurs. On the stylistic plus side, Fernando Moura’s lush jazzy soundtrack well serves the material, bringing to mind the noir scores of Mark Isham.

180°’s three principles hold it all together quite well nonetheless, deftly throwing down narrative markers while stewing in their hothouse passions and resentments. Evidently a semi-regular fixture of Brazilian psychological narrative-challenging thrillers, Eduardo Moscovis (whose The Last Madness played the Inffinito circuit several years ago), is again suitably intense and mysterious as Russell. Though probably not an obvious femme fatale, Malu Galu at least makes a credible book editor as Anna, whereas Felipe Abib convincingly conveys all Bernardo’s insecurities, as befits a self-centered writer.

Vaisman certainly deserves credit for his ambition, but 180° overstuffed with puzzle pieces and far too self-conscious in the way it tries to fit them all together. Still, it is all rather intriguing, which is not nothing. The curious should definitely check it out when 180° screens again this Friday (6/17) as Inffinito’s 2011 New York festival continues at the Tribeca Cinemas.