Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cine Fest Brasil NY ’11: Malu on a Bicycle

Like a New York-Los Angeles romance, in theory, there is no reason why a night club operator from São Paulo and a free-spirited woman from Rio can’t be a happy couple. In practice, good luck with that. The attraction is real, but so is the jealousy in Flávio Ramos Tambellini’s relationship dramedy Malu on a Bicycle (trailer here), which screens during Inffinito’s 2011 Cine Fest Brasil in New York.

To take a break from womanizing, Luiz Mário, the Peter Gatien of São Paulo, inexplicably heads to the beaches of Rio. However, his trip takes an unexpected turn when Malu bowls into him with her titular bicycle. He quickly resolves to make her his final and permanent conquest. For her part, Malu is quite amenable. Yet, her flirtatious chumminess with guy pals and spontaneous trips back to Rio gnaw at the back of his mind. Before too long, he is raging about like Othello, a player no longer capable of playing the game.

In a way, Bicycle is a very Brazilian film to present at the festival, brimming with nightlife and fun in the sun. Yet, despite the serious turn their relationship takes, the film is somewhat lightweight. Still, it is rather painful to watch Mario utterly undermine his own happiness. It also seems a bit odd that several of his exes are arguably more attractive than Malu, including Daniele Suzuki’s Japanese masseuse and Daniela Galli as the widow of his attorney. Of course, the whole point of the film is the galloping irrationality of love.

Regardless, Fernanda de Freitas has a real presence as Malu and Marcelo Serrado falls apart relatively well as her tormented lover (though his angst certainly tries viewer patience). Yet, perhaps the best work surprisingly comes from Marjorie Estiano as Malu’s best friend Sueli in a late sequence that comes almost out of the blue.

Even when things get melodramatic (and indeed they do), Tambellini keeps the action moving along briskly. Dado Villa-Lobos (great-grandson of Heitor) also helps sets the mood with his snappy score. Though not a good date movie (for obvious reasons), Bicycle falls more towards the higher end of the young urban promiscuous relationship film spectrum. As a representative of popular Brazilian cinema, it can be expected to be a popular selection at Inffinito’s 2011 New York festival. It screens again this Friday (6/17) at the Tribeca Cinemas.