Brazil



CANNIBALISM AND TROPICALISM

The year 1968 fragmented the artistic milieu and nurtured the emergence of new aesthetic strategies of resistance: cannibalism, Tropicalism, and the aesthetics of garbage dominated the third phase of Cinema Novo. Cannibalism, inspired by the modernist movement of the 1920s, was a nationalist strategy of cultural anti-imperialism, according to which the culture imposed by the First World should be devoured, digested, and recycled according to local needs. "Cannibalism is an exemplary mode of consumerism adopted by underdeveloped peoples," wrote Joaquim Pedro de Andrade for the presentation of Macunaíma (1969), the film adaptation of the modernist novel by Mário de Andrade that became a box-office hit and a milestone in Cinema Novo ("Cannibalism and Self-Cannibalism," in Johnson and Stam, p. 68). Another splendid cannibal film is Pereira dos Santos's Como era gostoso o meu francês ( How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman , 1971).

Tropicalism, though conceptually related to cannibalism, is a complex Brazilian variant of pop with which a growing number of avant-garde musicians, writers, artists, and theater and film directors identify themselves. Though clearly a reaction to the economically ultramodern but ideologically ultraconservative neoliberal modernization imposed by the military, Tropicalism rendered patriarchal, traditional cultures anachronistic using the most advanced or fashionable idioms and techniques in the world, thus producing an allegory of Brazil that exposed a real historical abyss, a junction of different stages of capitalist development. However, the Tropicalist message was at least ambiguous, since the line between covert criticism and overt commercialism is blurred, providing the stock for a genuine "snobbery for the masses" (Schwarz). In consequence, contrary to the aesthetic of hunger, Tropicalism's formula mixed reflection with entertainment, with fiesta, carnival, and chanchada , to entice the public, as in dos Santos's Tenda dos milagros ( Shop of Miracles , 1977) and Dona Flor e seus dois maridos ( Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands , 1976), arguably the most successful film in Brazilian filmmaking, and Diegues's works Xica da Silva (1976), Bye Bye Brasil (1980), and Quilombo (1984). This

Tropicalism in Carlos Diegues's Bye Bye Brasil (1980).
explains the spectacular magnificence of Tropicalist films, and their inversion of the revolutionary strategy of the aesthetics of hunger for an ironic tactic of social reform, which tries to recover the carnivalesque underside of uneven development.

Tropicalism's ultimate goal, however, was to break its dependence on official patronage and ideological censorship, to get rid of its paradoxical alliance with the authoritarian regime, thus solving the intractable question of the popular: in a word, how to make films attractive to the public while still representing the interests of the people. After their return from exile in 1973, though Cinema Novo had largely disappeared as a cultural movement, Cinema Novo directors continued to dominate the scene under the auspices of the cultural policies of General Ernesto Geisel. In 1975, they revitalized Embrafilme and created Concine and Funarte, institutions dedicated to the promotion of the arts. Embrafilme's budget rose from $600,000 to $8 million; it distributed over 30 percent of Brazilian films and cofinanced up to 50 percent of the annual film production. The screen quota was increased from 42 days in 1959 to 140 days in 1980, and the share of Brazilian films went from 15 percent in 1974 to 30 percent in 1980 (Johnson, Film Industry ). The dilemma for filmmakers was whether these tangible benefits could write off the political costs of accepting the support of a repressive regime, whose interest in the arts was part of its modernizing policies. Some filmmakers rejected Embrafilme as a co-opting device and a mechanism of cultural control; others, including Rocha, Pereira dos Santos, and Diegues, who became sub-director of Embrafilme under Roberto Farias, thought that Embrafilme was a way to confront the power of multinational corporations in Brazil.

Meanwhile, some filmmakers, known to be part of the Udigrudi (underground), rejected any form of state support as an ideological sellout and questioned the artistic hegemony of Cinema Novo directors. The Udigrudi filmmakers' aesthetic of garbage expressed a feeling of cynical despair that anticipated the postmodern dismissal of modern utopias. However, according to Rocha, they shared the same objectives of conquering the market and maintaining economic independence to sustain freedom of production ("From the Drought to the Palm Trees," in Johnson and Stam, p. 88). O bandido da luz vermelha ( The Red Light Bandit , Rogerio Sganzerla, 1968), Matou a familia e foi ao cinema ( Killed the Family and Went to the Cinema, Julio Bresanne, 1969), and Bangue-Bangue ( Bang Bang , Andrea Tonacci, 1971) follow this line of breaking the codes, mixing genres, transgressing morals, and dumping Cinema Novo's revolutionary optimism within corrosive nihilism.

All this revealed a profound ideological and cultural crisis, but it also contributed to spark anew the debate on "the popular" and the social role of the intellectual, revealing that the national and the popular are not something hidden from everyday reality that artists and intellectuals should unearth, but that same everyday social reality in which people live, including, of course, religion and television. This notion is consciously examined in Pereira dos Santos's O amuleto de Ogum ( The Amulet of Ogum , 1974) and Memórias do cárcere ( Prison Memories , 1984), Guerra and Nelson Xavier's A queda ( The Fall , 1977), and O homen que virou suco ( The Man Who Turned into Juice , João Batista de Andrade, 1980).



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