Boca ‘ The Real Godfather’ (Flavio Frederico, Released On Blue- ray February the 13th 2012)
Calling itself ‘The Real Godfather’, Boca is adapted from the autobiography of gangland boss Hiroito Joanide’s de Moroaes, a man who was infamous as The King of Boca Do Lixo ( an area in downtown Sao Paulo in the 1950s notorious for its nightclubs, strip joints, prostitutes, bars and drugs). The film follows Hiroito (Daniel De Oliveira) as he rises to the top of Sao Paulo’s criminal underworld, fast becoming one of the most successful, dangerous and wanted criminals in Brazil.
The film won the award at the Festival do Rio 2010 for best cinematography and you can see why, the shots are beautifully composed and really show off the capabilities of High Definition when watching the on Blu-ray disc. The film aims for authenticity, and largely achieves this. The violence is sudden and shocking but not gratuitous, a Quentin Tarantino film this is not. The characters in the film may be brutal and unpleasant but they are not caricature gangsters. The realism of the film gives it a quiet intensity, which in turn gives it tension. It also won the award at the Festival do Rio 2010 for editing, and there are some clever and imaginative edits in the film that differ from the typical gangster flic. For example (potential spoiler) there is a shot in which the police come to arrest Hirotio and rather than show the police enter the house and arrest him as would usually be the case, there is a shot of him inside the house making love to his wife, and then, as the police slowly walk into his house, it then it cuts to a prison wall. It is subtle and understated, which I am sure was desired and it does convey a sense of realism. It also quite cleverly juxtaposes Hiroito’s caring and loving side (although this side of his personality is rather fleeting) as seen in the relationship with his wife, with his inherent criminality.
The main issue with the film is that it’s rather dull. Whilst as previously mentioned its sense of realism does give it a certain authenticity, and in certain places does give it some tension, the film never really catches fire. Whilst its carefully composed shots give it a certain beauty, it lacks the rawness of City of God (also telling a story of criminality in Brazil) and it lacks its energy. It also lacks a likeable character, this may seem irrelevant in a gangster film, but part of the brilliance of City of God was that it placed a likeable and identifiable character in the midst of the horrific criminal underworld of Brazil, this meant there was a character who you hoped survived which gave the film unbelievable tension. However, within this film one of the main issues is you really don’t care what happens to Hiroito or in fact any character in this film except maybe his wife Alaide. Unfortunately as with most of the female characters in this film, she is given very few lines, and little to do other than to be seduced and to look sorrowful when Hiroito gets into trouble. The central narrative is perceived through Hiroito’s eyes, which is problematic when you have a character as dislikeable as he is. His violence and objectification of women is understandable as a gangster but Daniel De Olivira’s performance gives you very little to hold on to. Hiroito has a cold detachment towards others, endlessly philosophising about how great he is and how hard life is – in one scene he even drowns ants in droplets of water. The film may look beautiful but it has no warmth to it and will leave you rather cold. This is for all intents and purposes the authentic story of the Brazilian gangster told through Hiroito’s eyes but the question is, is it a story anyone wanted to hear?
We get a collection of stills from the film and a director’s commentary from Flavio Fredico. Fredico ‘s commentary is informative if a little dry, he is clearly interested in the history of Brazil at this time, and has an eye for historical detail and accuracy e.g. he describes what books men read whilst waiting for prostitutes. It does seem that Fredico would have been more suited to a documentary, with the films scene’s simply being re-enactments of details of a time in Brazil’s history, which he finds fascinating. It’s definitely worth a listen. Overall the extras are rather limited, it would have been good to have a decent making-of documentary