Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Theater, Film, Literature -- Look How Cultured I Am!

I'm a very thrifty person -- sometimes to a fault. This can lead to my mother complaining that I am not eating enough, or that I'm walking too much instead of taking a bus or a taxi, or anything else about my lifestyle that she can think of from 5000 miles away. However, last week I saw a play and two Brazilian movies for a grand total of 5 reais (almost 3 dollars), and I don't think there's anything worth complaining about in that.

The play was called Além do Arco-Íris, or "Over the Rainbow." Despite the fact that I am taking a translation class and learn for about four hours per week how words are polysemic, I was translating this in my head as "Beyond the Rainbow." It wasn't until the first notes of the song started playing that the beginning of the play that it all came together for me. 

Nothing to do with Dorothy and Toto, this play was about a woman whose husband has just died. For much of it, she just sat around on stage and told us how sad she was, and reenacted their first meeting, and sniffed his shirts. Pretty cliché stuff. I thought I wasn't going to be able to take it anymore when the stage went mostly dark and she started reciting "Funeral Blues" ("Stop all the clocks...") -- in Portuguese, of course. 

But then the pieces started coming together. There was the revelation of a secret abortion, an affair, and of course some fraud. If you think that's melodramatic, you ain't heard nothing yet. The big kicker came right at the end. We figured it out right as the main (and mostly only) character did (spoiler alert): she's actually dead too! Yeah, I didn't see that one coming. Unfortunately any mystery the play still held was quickly destroyed when the other character, who had been mostly clearing out the apartment until now, answered the telephone and said, "Unfortunately, the lady of the house died yesterday in a car accident." So that was a little abrupt.

I did enjoy it; it really wasn't as bad as I'm making it out to seem. The actress was quite good, and I was proud of myself for being able to laugh at the Rio-specific jokes. Plus we brought cookies.

The next day a Brazilian cinema chain was having a special day for national films, with each playing for only two reais. I skipped both of my classes (ok, I guess there's something for my mom to object to -- but it's not like I missed anything important!) and went straight to the theater.

The first film I saw was called Tempos de Paz, and it was about a Polish actor who comes to Brazil in 1945 hoping for peace, but who instead is almost sent back on the next boat by an immigration agent who suspects him of being a Nazi. It all takes place within a couple of hours, with the actor learning that things aren't so idyllic in Brazil and the agent learning about the importance of theater. And me learning about Eastern European immigration to Brazil during and after the Second World War.

I really liked the film -- though I distrusted the fact that the actor spoke such grammatically correct and fluent, though accented, Portuguese, despite never having been to Brazil before. I left the theater impressed and went to buy some chocolate before my next showing.

The next film was Besouro, about capoeira in 1920s Bahia, less than 40 years after slavery was abolished and before capoeira was legalized. The movie seemed to me to be kind of a Brazilian version of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. There was a little bit of flying involved. While very beautifully and fantastically made, I thought the characters could have been developed a little more. The love story was settled and over, as was the film, before I even realized what was happening (though I guess I did manage to finish my whole chocolate bar...).

After that I decided not to go home right away because the air-conditioning in the mall was heavenly. So I did some shopping! I haven't bought any Brazilian clothing yet, besides bikinis and my Flamengo shirt, of course, so I thought I'd look for some souvenirs. Brazilian clothing tends to be kind of weird though, with lots of flowy shirts with weird straps and no backs, so I didn't end up getting anything.

Instead I went to the bookstore. I was looking for a book by Fernando Pessoa, which I didn't find, but I ended up buying O evangelho segundo Jesus Cristo (The Gospel According to Jesus Christ) by José Saramago, a contemporary Portguese author who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1998. Harold Bloom called him "the most gifted novelist alive in the world today," so I figured I might as well try to read one of his novels, although they are known for being extremely difficult. Paragraphs are an average of a page or two long (the first chapter is all one paragraph) and individual sentences aren't much shorter. I haven't gotten very far yet, and it's definitely hard, but I found that if I read very, very slowly, I can kind of get the gist of what's going on!

The reason I haven't gotten very far is this: the next book I bought was Harry Potter e as relíquias da morte... aka Harry Potter number 7!  I haven't read it since the week it came out over two years ago, and it's really fun to read in Portuguese. When else would I learn a word like "The Burrow?" (A Toca). I'm not even a quarter of the way through, though, and I'm already sad knowing that it will end soon. We will see if I cry as much at the end as I did when reading it in English.

Books in Brazil are kind of expensive (and people here don't really read! It's a vicious cycle....), but I think my mom will be glad to know that even if I end up spending my last month surviving on fried eggs and pasta and walking the 3.5 miles to school every day, at least I will be reading.

1 comment:

  1. To be fair (to me), it's not the walking I object to, it's the walking alone, late at night, in empty streets.