Criticism of “Narciso em Férias”, the Brazilian dictatorship in the flesh of Caetano Veloso

Friday, September 23, 2022

Narcissus at Fairs It transports us through the story of the Brazilian singer-songwriter Caetano Veloso to December 13, 1968, when the military dictatorship of that country approved the fifth institutional act. AI-5, as it was known, marking the beginning of its most violent stage. On December 27, at the age of 26, Caetano Veloso is arrested at his home in São Paulo, without any explanation, and transferred to Rio de Janeiro, where he is imprisoned for 54 days.

Directed by four hands by the filmmakers Renato Terra and Ricardo Calil, Narcissus at Fairs It is a “monologue – interview” of almost 80 minutes where the singer-songwriter recalls, at first, everything that happened during those dark days and how that experience shaped his music. While a short song serves as a separator for Caetano himself to read the testimonial transcript of the accusations for which he is arrested. Among others, he was accused of having parodied the national anthem by interpreting it with the typical rhythm of tropicalismo.

With a minimalist staging, the pairing of directors resorts to visual simplicity so that the only relevant thing is the voice of María Bethania’s brother, too. Only a series of long, fixed shots of different sizes and angles skilfully capture the body and soul of the sole protagonist. Caetano is always seated in a chair located in the center of a scenic space that is complemented by the background of a gray wall, a clear contrast to the gloom of the story, and where the only external element that is incorporated is his guitar.

Testimonial documentary, of the so-called talking heads, simple in its form, but full of minimal details, Narcissus at Fairs has the particularity (and also the delicacy) of captivating with each gesture, movement, body posture, pause, of the creator of “Outras palavras”, and of course of having the sensitivity and charisma of an artist who in all the footage makes forget that you are facing a succession of still shots and a man sitting in front of a camera.

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