Dir: Walter Lima Jr. Brazil, 2008. 138 mins.
A tribute to the golden age of bossa nova, Os Desafinados tells the story of four young musicians from Rio trying to make it big in New York in the sixties, just as Joao Gilberto and Tom Jobim were influencing popular music there (with the smash hit Desafinado, amongst others). Walter Lima weaves the band's fictional story into some of the events of the period and adds a love triangle to come up with a pleasantly offbeat film which is bound to do some brisk business in Latin territories.
Also inspired by events from Lima's own past, this script was nine years in the making, which could be why it runs to a dangerously long 138 minutes - its New York section, for example, could do with being tightened up. However Os Desafinados' frequent musical interludes act as a pick-up, and appearances from top Brazilian movie and TV stars, including Rodrigo Santoro, Claudia Abreu and Selton Mello guarantee crowds at home while elsewhere mature audiences are more likely to tune in, either at festivals or specialized distribution.
Framed as a long flashback, the plot follows Rio band Os Desafinados, consisting of Joaquin (Santoro), Geraldo (de Oliveira), David (Leme) and Paolo Cesar (Moraes). Turned down by a US talent agent, who buys one of their songs for peanuts (Jobim is said to have sold The Girl From Ipanema this way) but doesn't want them to perform it, they decide to go to New York to try for themselves, with filmmaker friend Dico (Mello) in tow.
After a rousing jam session at the Village Vanguard, all five of them are taken in by gifted musician Gloria (Abreu), who falls for the charms of Joaquin, not realizing he has a pregnant wife, Luiza (Negrini), waiting in Rio. They're living on borrowed time, however, visa-wise, and backat home, Dico puts the final touches to his first film, smuggles it out of the country and sends it to Moscow where, unbeknownst to him, it grabs an award (this entire subplot is a perfect chance for Lima to dig back into his Cinema Novo roots).
All this is seen from today's perspective via a TV show where the Desafinados survivors tell their story. Lima's immense sympathy for his characters, including their flaws, helps convey the warm fellowship they share despite setbacks and threatened splits. Constant reminders of the world they live in, whether it is Martin Luther King on American television, the army barricading the streets of Rio, or a powerful sequence showing junta soldiers grabbing people arbitrarily off the streets in Buenos Aires, provide a context which lifts the plot way above the level of a nostalgic romp into the past.
DoP Sergio Farkas smoothly matches the film's color palette to the stock footage used for location backgrounds and Wagner Tiso's soundtrack seamlessly combines new material written for the film with a vast selection of tunes from the golden age of bossa nova. Santoro, playing a man torn between two lovers, will delight his numerous Latin American admirers, while his two leading ladies, Abreu and Negrini, display the kind of restraint far removed from the requirements of the TV shows which have paved their road to stardom.
+ 55 21 2173 6685
Walter Lima Jr.
Director of photography
Jair de Oliveira
Angelo Paes Leme