review for Pixote on AllMovie

Pixote (1981)
by Jonathan Crow review

Not since Luis Buñuel's Los Olvidados has there been as savage and harrowing account of the plight of street kids or as damning a critique of Third World poverty and societal indifference. 10-year-old Pixote ("Pee Wee" in Portuguese) endures the brutalities of Brazil's repressive, corrupt reform schools, where military death squads and juvenile prison rape are the norm, only to flee to the dubious freedom of Sao Paolo's streets. Soon Pixote becomes a pimp, thief, and multiple murderer. Yet, through it all, the audience never loses sympathy for Pixote; director Hector Babenco makes clear that all Pixote wants and needs is a stable loving person in his life. Babenco's work is in the same spirit as the 1940s Italian Neorealists who coupled a realist style with a keen sense of social injustice. His visual style is documentary-like and almost artless--a straightforward depiction of events. His true artistic feat lies in his handling of his actors, most of whom were street kids in real life. The performance he gets out of amateur Fernando Ramos da Silva is astonishing. Not since Jean-Pierre Léaud's performance in The 400 Blows (1959) had a child actor delivered a performance so filled with sadness and pathos. Da Silva's large eyes, set off by his round baby face, speak of someone who has seen too much too soon. Pixote is a raw, heart-wrenching experience that will burn into the viewer's mind for a long time to come.