I was late getting to this week’s selected film – though not as late as film distributors in the UK: it has never been picked up for a cinema or even a DVD release. For more than two years, respected colleagues have been talking up the merits of Araby, a tiny but mighty fiction debut by Brazilian film-makers João Dumans and Affonso Uchoa. The Hollywood Reporter critic Neil Young has gone so far as to declare it the best film of this fast-closing decade. Having missed it on its year-long festival run in 2017, I waited for a chance to see it on a big screen.
That chance hasn’t come, but Mubi has, as it so often does, stepped into the breach. Araby is available to stream on their curated menu until mid-September; you’d do well to take the chance while it’s there. The film is, as promised, something very special: a careworn, will-o’-the-wisp road movie, contained within a memory that may or may not be imagined. Dumans and Uchoa have a documentary background that’s evident in their calm, clear-eyed portrait of a hard-knock life in permanent flux. Yet there’s a glimmering, uncertain magic to it too. It’s a film preoccupied with the way we fashion our lives into storytelling.
Patience - Minutes - Exercise - Grainy - Realism
You have to approach it with some patience. The first 20 minutes or so promise a more austere exercise in grainy realism than the poetic picaresque we eventually get, but the tonal contrast eventually pays off as the film considers the virtues of restless movement versus stasis. We’re introduced to Andre (Murilo Caliari), a shy, bored teenager abandoned by his parents in a dead-end Brazilian factory town, and Cristiano (Aristides de Sousa), the diminutive itinerant labourer whose path he crosses. Sent on an errand to Cristiano’s quarters, Andre stumbles across his tatty,...
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