Portugese comedy ’Diamantino’ shoots hard and scores the top prize at Cannes Critics’ Week
Dirs: Gabriel Abrantes, Daniel Schmidt. Portugal/France/Brazil. 2018. 92 mins
Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt have bitten off more than they casn chew with their debut feature Diamantino. The ridiculous plight of a gormless world class footballer serves as the basis for a chaotic, madcap comedy in which strident satire does battle with strained whimsicality. There might be some cult potential in these Pythonesque larks, however, helped by a win at Cannes Critics’ Week.
There are stray laughs among the silliness,but much of what transpires is tiresome
Diamantino, played by the very Ronaldo-esque Carloto Cotta, is a beloved national icon in Portugal. Considered the best football player on the planet, he is a poet of the pitch. Haring up the stadium, he sees himself accompanied by large, fluffy puppies trailing clouds of candy-cloud dust. On the field, he is invincible until a fatal error at the 2018 World Cup final and the death of his father send him hurtling towards an existential crisis.
Cotta is well cast as a vacant national treasure and is often endearingly stupid. Diamantino is a man whose gleaming copper body is his fortune and who has his own lines of bedding and underwear. Why would he need to have an intellect as well?
Diamantino has the potential of Jean Dujardin creations like Brice De Nice or 0SS117. Yet Abrantes and Schmidt fail to make the most of it by pitching him into a hectic, mind-boggling plot. The search for redemption involves adopting a refugee and becoming a dupe of a neo-fascist organisation intent on making Portugal great again as it prepares to vote on leaving the European Union.
There are some one-liners that hit their target as Diamantino explains to his son exactly what a refugee is and how he might adopt one from any part of a troubled world. Canada would seem to be his preferred option. There are also stray laughs among the silliness.
Diamantino is at the mercy of twin sisters who act like pantomime meanies and whose every hysterical appearance becomes an ordeal. Desperate to nail the footballing icon for financial misconduct, undercover government agent Aisha (Cleo Tavares) (female) poses as Mozambique refugee Rahim (male) and is adopted by Diamantino as the child he has always wanted. Nobody in the household pauses to question the age or obvious femininity of this “boy”. Obviously, the whole set-up is problematic for her lesbian lover and colleague who has posed as a Catholic nun in charge of an orphanage. She arrives sporting a wimple fashioned into the floppy ears of a very large bunny. That’s before we stray into Austin Powers territory with a diabolical plot to create an unbeatable national team by cloning Diamantino.
The scattershot approach often feels as juvenile as the central character. You have to admire the sheer giddy enthusiasm of these filmmaking friends who are fizzing with ideas and able to make a modest budget stretch a long way. The film has a certain visual allure in its gaudy colours and low-budget special-effects. Yet you also long for them to put all those energies into a more focused, far funnier project.
Production Companies: Les Films Du Belier, Maria & Mayer
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Producers: Justin Taurand, Maria Joao Mayer, Daniel van Hoogstraten
Screenplay: Gabriel Abrantes, Daniel Schmidt
Production design: Bruno Duarte
Editing: Raphaelle Martin-Hogler, Gabriel Abrantes, Daniel Schmidt
Cinematography: Charles Ackley Anderson
Music: Ulysse Klotz, Adriana Holtz
Main cast: Carloto Cotta, Cleo Tavares, Anabela Moreira