Bye Bye Brazil (1980)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Road Movie  |   Run Time - 110 min.  |   Countries - Argentina, Brazil, France  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Nathan Southern

Carlos Diegues' Bye Bye Brazil catches the viewer off guard with its low-key minimalism. For a feature that ostensibly recounts the adventures and spectacles of a traveling circus, Brazil feels so slight, so offhanded and underplayed -- and so muted in terms of its aesthetic palette (it recalls the literature of Carlo Levi) -- that the viewer must consciously restrict and reorient his or her focus to the character level. Such does not necessarily represent a weakness: Diegues' decision to bask in the inter-dynamics of the circus troupe members is certainly valid. He handles the nuances of their shifting relationships deftly and satisfactorily (albeit with no great profundity). Far more satisfying, for the viewer, are Diegues' gossamery and nonchalant gags; one highlight has Lord Cigano pulling a magic trick by making it "snow" in the audience -- the Brazilian spectators, who have never run into below-zero conditions, struggle to squeeze it into their limited indigenous framework, and one finally remarks, in desperation, "Huh...Looks like grated coconut." Another hysterical moment (one of the film's rare sight gags) has some 3,000 small-town Brazilian spectators seated, like a movie crowd, before the first television set of their lives -- with a 12-inch screen. These gags, while immensely satisfying and enjoyable, do not weaken the picture, though they cut against the grain of its central overtone, which is the opposite of over-the-top and gag-laden. Bye Bye Brazil waxes elegiac, tearful, and slightly haunting -- like a middle-pitched, protracted valedictory wail.