leave a comment --Ken Fox
Brazilian director Claudio Assis makes an auspicious debut onto the thriving South American cinema scene with this expanded version of his 1999 short film "Hotel Texas." It's a beautifully constructed, often disturbing look at a day in the life of several down-at-the-heels denizens of Recife, a bustling Brazilian coastal town that's home to both the Daisy (Magdale Alves). Dunga hates both women very rich and the very poor. Ground zero for the action is the Hotel Texas, a decaying flophouse managed by Dunga (Matheus Nachtergaele), a flaming creature in denim hot-pants who cooks and cleans for the residents. Dunga has an burning crush on Wellington (Chico Diaz), a butcher from the local slaughterhouse who's married to the modest, evangelical Christian Kika (Dira Paes), but is also making time with good-time girl with a passion and is determined to have Wellington for himself. At first he threatens to throw a Santeria spell on the lot of them, but Dunga later opts for a far more direct approach: He sends Kika an anonymous letter, wising her up to the facts. His carefully laid plan, however, goes awry after an unexpected death. Meanwhile throughout the day, other lives criss-cross and collide. Isaac (Jonas Bloch), a German sadist with a revolting predilection for corpses, has his eye on Ligia (Leona Cavalli), the bitter blond spitfire who runs a nearby cafe. Also on hand are an out-of-work priest (Jones Melo) whose congregation has dwindled to nothing on account of the thriving Evangelical movement, and a lonely, aging asthmatic (Conceicao Camaroti) whose oxygen tank is her only companion. Tawdry stuff, to be sure, but it's glorious to look at. Walter Carvalho's cinematography has lent films as diverse as Walter Salles's CENTRAL STATION (1998) and Karim Ainouz's MADAME SATA (2002) their distinctive textures, and his work here is exceptional. The camera glides in several long, overhead traveling shots, while the scenes of ordinary Brazilians going about their lives ground the film in the reality of contemporary Brazil and gives this piquant film added flavor.