Pedro Paulo and Amy Irving do the Bossa Nova in slick fest opener.
BOSSA NOVA (Bruno Barreto) Rating: NNN
The sophomore outing of the Brazil Film Fest is set to heat up late fall. This year's showcase, celebrating 50 years of bossa nova, opens with a movie named after that very jazz form.
Bruno Barreto's Bossa Nova is like an American screwball comedy made in Brazil, or a Brazilian screwball comedy tailor-made for Americans. Either way, it's a periodically funny movie that follows an aging lawyer named Pedro Paulo (a stately Antônio Fagundes), who falls for an American widow (an awkward Amy Irving) teaching English in Rio de Janeiro.
He gushes, she blushes, and in the film's most romantic gesture he discreetly sizes her up with his palm to cut a dress for her.
Bossa Nova charms with its grooving soundtrack and sensuous cinematography that makes you feel you can reach out and touch all the crisp fabrics, velvety waters, maroon skies and cool mists.
However, it often feels very plastic - like Beverly Hills plastic - especially since everything is made to look so pretty and picturesque. This is the Rio of postcards and travel brochures, not the shooting gallery of City Of God. There are no indiscriminate murderers or lurching pickpockets in Barreto's Brazil, which is fine, given the genre.
But with so many scenes on the beach, it's a shame there are no pulse-raising Brazilian bikinis - you know, the kind the Brazilian wax was made for.
Screens tonight and tomorrow (November 27 and 28) at the Isabel Bader. See listings.