"It was like a message from God: "Honesty doesn't pay, sucker."
That's right. My all time Favorite film is from Brazil. It's gritty, its bloody and sometimes it's downright hilarious. It has a message, it has amazing characters with depth and it has the best direction I have ever seen. City of God is the best film of all time. Hands down.
Ok, so why is this the best film? Here is the checklist of what makes an amazing film.
1. Story- As far as I'm concerned, if the story is sucky (i won't count films that don't have stories as I like them sometimes ie- Mullholand Drive) then why bother? I guess that's why I want to write movies. A film is a form of storytelling. In City of God, not only are the stories told in an interesting narrative set-up with side stories flying off in tangents as our narrator Rocket gives us the information, the characters (and there are quite a few) are interesting. Their stories are funny, tragic, horrific and downright uplifting. There isn't an end to the complexity of characters that add to the film.
2. Visuals- As film is a visual medium, I like to see something pleasant to the eyes. Well, not always pleasant per se, but something that is challenging and thought provoking. The direction in this film is genius. The cinematography, gritty and groundbreaking. From the opening scene where we get a chickens perspective to the time changing during the "Story of the Apartment", we get unique storytelling via image. Meirelles deserved the Oscar for best director that he was nominated for.
3. Acting- If the people in the film aren't convicing, why watch? A cast of no-names is what makes this film perfect. And although we all know Seu Jorge from Life Aquatic, I don't see him as Seu Jorge or his character from Life Aquatic. I see him as Knockout Ned. His character pierces through the screen. Beyond him, Lil Ze is one of the most brutal performances I have ever seen. He makes Scarface look like a douchebag pansy. Rocket is the most uplifting character who comes out of the slums to become someone. Benny is a heartwrenching parable, Carrot is a great enemy that you love and the Tender Trio at the beginning are all important to the story even though their story ends in the firt 1/3rd of the movie. These characters seem real.
4. Entertainment/Art- The ever pressing battle for films is are they entertainement or art? The answer is both. Many films fail on one side or the other. The Sting is entertainment. The Seventh Seal is art. City of God is both. The movie is damn fun to watch. You get into the story, you laugh, you cry and you learn lessons. All the things that an entertaining movie like The Sting do excellently. Then it goes on to break barriers in storytelling, make cinema not just fun to watch, but make you appreciate what you are watching. Then it becomes artistic like a classic Bergman film or something like Roshamon. When a film is both, it is excellent.
I highly recommend seeing this ASAP. If you don't like violence, don't watch it as it is pretty violent. But I implore those who may be saying "I've never heard of this" or "I have never watched this" and especially "I've been meaning to see this." GO and get it. No other film that I have seen thus far has been as excellent as this.