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November 13, 2014

Starz Denver Film Festival 2014 - Castanha

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Davi Pretto - 2014
Tokyo Filmes

I didn't do much reading about this Brazilian film prior to watching it. The result was being caught by surprise that the title role is played by Joao Carlos Castanha. The film is not not a documentary, though from what I've gleaned, there are some similarities between the screen character and the man in real life.

While the most publicized aspect of Castanha in this film is his occasional work as an aging drag hostess in a gay bar, that's only part of the film. Castanha's mother, whom he shares a small apartment with, played by his real mother, euphemistically calls it "night work", always staying up late, waiting for her son to come home.

Castanha also has acting gigs, a small character part in a film, more frequent work in theater. Perhaps not the most erudite cinephile, Castanha talks about sitting in a theater to see Bugsy Malone several times, while a conversation with younger friend mentions Danny the Dog (Unleashed).

Mostly, Castanha is a meditation about growing old and alone. Whatever is said, and not said, the real story is in the deep lines of Castanha's face, his constantly disheveled appearance, and his occasional wheezing. His mother asks if the son can do something other than the "night work", when there is the unstated acknowledgment that there is not much of a future. The bleakness of that future might well be indicated when Castanha takes his drag act to a nightclub in a rundown, virtually empty, beach town.

While Joao Castanha is an experienced actor, this was the first acting role for his mother, Celina, playing herself. In interviews about the film, Davi Pretto has discussed the mix between documentary and fiction. There are a couple moments in stage roles where Castanha's lines could well be autobiographical. Castanha's drag performances are usually at a dive called Club Mixx, but the real mix here is the blend of reality, fiction and fantasy.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 13, 2014 07:34 AM