Interviewed after a private showing of his latest film, Linha de Passe, Walter Salles, the director of Central Station and The Motorcycle Diaries, discussed life in Sao Paulo and how in the movie he has attempted to illustrate the difficulties facing the poor as they strive to grow into useful citizens of the community, and how many fall at the last hurdle.
Linha de Passe is set in that city of 20 million souls, many of whom barely scrape a living. It chronicles the life of a working mother, a cleaner for a doctor, who has four sons from different husbands, none of whom live with or have any responsibility for their offspring. She herself is about to bear a fifth.
Each son tries to make a life for himself with varying degrees of success in a society haunted by the problem of earning enough money to live, eat and have somewhere to shelter. Their stories are interwoven to form a fabric of what life is really like in the poor areas of Sao Paulo. Some are based on true events, some are created for the film. We watch their struggles and how they try to break out of the poverty trap.
The mother, played by the theatre actor Sandra Corveloni, holds her disparate family together, acting as their father as well as their mother. Corveloni, who has never appeared in a feature film before, was given the best actress award for her role in the film at Cannes this year.
Vinicius de Oliveira, who plays the boy who wants to become a professional footballer, was the lead 10 years back in Central Station. Kaique Jesus Santos, the black son, is untrained. He is quite marvellous as the boy who believes his lost father is a bus driver and so steals a bus in order to find him.
The other stories feature the problems of joining a football club, particularly the bribes that are necessary, a racket where out-of-work boys steal from cars at traffic lights by breaking car windows and riding away on their scooters, and the son who has become a born-again Christian, who in justifiable anger nearly kills his boss.
What is so interesting is that the stories are never quite resolved. We, the audience, are left to pick up the pieces and make our own ending. Life is not simple, as Salles and his co-director, Daniela Thomas, see it.
If I was not completely swept away by the film, then it's because it's full of clichés in many ways, but the execution of it is so masterly and the acting so real that I am left in no doubt that this is a classic film.
Arnold Pearce, retired advertising executive, London
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