Synopsis by Mark Deming
João Francisco dos Santos was a figure of no small infamy in Brazil during the 1930s -- he was a flamboyantly gay drag performer who was also a notorious criminal, thoroughly unashamed of his sexual orientation and willing to defend himself with deadly force if the situation demanded. Writer and director Karim Ainouz brings dos Santos' story to the screen in this vibrant drama seasoned with music and dance. A tall and physically imposing man, dos Santos (played by Lázaro Ramos) grew up poor on the streets of Brazil; and once he reached adulthood, he shared a home in one of Rio de Janeiro's less picturesque neighborhoods with a handful of friends, including Laurita (Marcelia Cartaxo), a streetwalker; her baby daughter; Taboo (Flavio Bauraqui), a nightclub performer who sometimes turned tricks for extra cash; and Renatinho (Felippe Marques), one of dos Santos' lovers. After landing a job at a nightspot called The Blue Danube, dos Santos grew fascinated with the elaborate costumes and choreography of the stage shows, and became a singer and dancer at the club. However, when the management declined to pay him, dos Santos took matters into his own hands and demanded his salary at knifepoint, leading to the first of many stays behind bars. Upon his release, dos Santos pledged to make his name as a cross-dressing entertainer, though his fiery temper made taking advantage of him a bad idea. Madame Satã was screened as part of the "Un Certain Regard" series at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival.
Brazil, drag [cross-dressing], drag-queen, criminal, transvestite, nightclub, performer, murder, streetfighting