review for Madame Satã on AllMovie

Madame Satã (2002)
by Todd Kristel review

This movie has plenty of atmosphere. It's set in the underbelly of 1930s Rio, populated by small-time hustlers who wear period clothing and listen to period music, shot with a high-contrast, bleached-out, and sepia-toned look, and dominated by a larger than life character. Lazaro Ramos demonstrates a commanding screen presence as Joao Francisco dos Santos (aka "Madame Satã"). It's a tricky role to pull off without chewing too much scenery, but Ramos does an impressive job of seeming natural as this lithe but tough-as-nails character who always seems to have an undercurrent of rage simmering beneath (and sometimes bubbling over) the surface. The movie seems more like an impressionistic snapshot of a period in Joao's life than a full-fledged biography; the individual scenes aren't interwoven to form a tight narrative and the movie ends before Joao even becomes a star, which makes the story line seem somewhat truncated. It's not fully satisfying as a story because of this, and it doesn't get enough into Jao's head to be fully satisfying as a character study either.