Monday, August 03, 2009

Cine Fest Petrobras Brasil ‘09: If I Were You 2

Brazilian music has captured the ears of the world. While its cinema has also found an international audience, it is the sound of bossas, sambas, and choros that most readily come to mind when Americans think of Brazilian culture. Shrewdly, this year’s Cine Fest Petrobras Brasil capitalizes on the popularity of Brazil’s musical heritage, programming a number of music documentaries and launching the festival with a free concert from Silvia Machete in Central Park.

There is something refreshingly politically incorrect about watching a performer wearing high heels and a decorative bird in her hair hand-roll and then smoke a cigarette while suggestively spinning a golden hula hoop, as her musicians solo. Silvia Machete has showmanship.

Backed by a combo of trombone, electric guitar, electric bass, and drums, Machete performed an energetic set of Brazilian pop flavored with forró and samba. Her saucy sense of humor comes through both in her stage banter and choice of repertoire, including a silky smooth pop rendition of “Sweet Child of Mine” and a heavy metal cover of “Ipanema.” If not a household name in America, Machete is a real entertainer who had the crowd up on its feet, kicking the festival off in style.

Evidently, every country periodically experiences a body-switching movie craze. We had films like Big and Vice Versa in the late 1980’s. Now Brazil is embracing Daniel Filho’s If I Were You and its aptly named sequel, If I Were You 2 (trailer here), which opened the proper film portion of the festival with a free screening following Machete’s concert.

Married couple Cláudio and Helena already exchanged bodies in the previous installment of the series. However, they seem to have forgotten the lessons of those four days spent in each others shoes. With their marriage teetering on the brink of divorce, simultaneously they mistakenly utter the same old jinxeroo that serves as the film title. Sure enough, once again they switch bodies, which makes their divorce proceedings some awkward.

Aside from a disastrous soccer match, number 2 actually seems somewhat restrained in its physical comedy. After all, they are no longer total strangers in their partner’s bodies. Still, the comedy is certainly broad, aimed at a popular audience. At least, Tony Ramos and Gloria Pires are game enough as the quarrelling body-switchers and Filho keeps the tone light and frothy. Best of all, since it includes a wedding scene, the Central Park audience got to hear “Oh What a Night” in Portuguese.

If 2 is definitely Brazilian popcorn cinema, well suited to a muggy summer outdoor screening. Cine Fest Petrobras continues through Friday at the Tribeca Cinemas, with a diverse bill of popular and art cinema from Brazil, including several music documentaries like Paulo Henrique Fontenelle’s Loki—Arnaldo Baptista.