Time Out says
Tue Mar 20 2007Finnish director Mika Kaurismäki’s film is a love letter to choro, Brazil’s original urban music born out of a mixture of European dances and Afro-Brazilian rhythms in the late 1870s. Played on mandolin, tambourine, guitar, clarinet and trombone, Choro sounds something like a jazzy, folksy flamenco and was hugely popular in the first half of the twentieth century before being displaced by bossa nova in the ’60s. However, much like flamenco in Spain or fado in Portugal, it enjoyed a politically motivated government-sponsored resurgence in the late ’70s and continues to thrive today.
Kaurismäki, who settled in Brazil in the early ’90s, obviously loves the music and the musicians who play it and he sets out to do for choro what Wim Wenders’s ‘Buena Vista Social Club’ did for Cuban son. But the film lacks a strong enough narrative thread to really engage us. What story there is involves the Trio Madeira Brasil as they prepare for a celebratory concert on April 23 (National Choro Day) and through them we get to meet the likes of virtuoso guitarist Yamandú and pandeiro player (a tuned tambourine) Jorginho do Pandeiro. But, while they’re charming enough, the film never gets to grips with choro’s history or how it fits into contemporary Brazilian culture. Slavery (not abolished in Brazil until 1888) is briefly and uncomfortably touched upon towards the end of the film but the music’s European and middle-class heritage is never properly explored and musicians (including the great Elza Soares) come and go without us getting to know who they are. The music, though, is unfailingly wonderful. Kerstan Mackness
Author: Kerstan Mackness