Brazzil
October 1998
Film

Best of the
Century

Brazilian filmmakers have produced film gems since before the talkies. The best movie on our list, Ganga Bruta (Rough Gangue), was shot by director Humberto Mauro in 1933.

Alessandra Dalevi

After presenting a list of the 50 best novels written by Brazilian authors this century Rio's weekly magazine Manchete came up with the 50 best movies ever made in Brazil.

Tied for the number of times they are mentioned—four each—are a contemporary director (Walter Lima Júnior) and a filmmaker from the pioneer years, Humberto Mauro, whose Ganga Bruta (Rough Gangue) is the first of the list. Nélson Pereira dos Santos appears three times in the list, including in the second position with Vidas Secas (Barren Lives).

In a surprising result for this kind of roster, two of the ten best movies were released in the last two years: Central do Brasil (Central Station) and A Ostra e o Vento (The Oyster and the Wind). It is also odd that Gláuber Rocha, considered a genius by many, had only one of his films (Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol) mentioned.

Although only recently there's been a revival of the Brazilian movie industry all but extinguished during the Collor era (Fernando Collor de Mello was Brazil's president from 1990 to 1992, when he was impeached accused of corruption) the cinema had its golden times in Brazil. Closer to the European art film model than to Hollywood's mold, Brazilian filmmakers have produced film gems since before the talkies, during the 20s. Arguably the best movie of the silent era was Limite (Limit) released in 1929 and directed by eighteen-year-old Mário Peixoto.

The best movie on our list, Ganga Bruta (Rough Gangue), was shot by Humberto Mauro, a director who also started during the silent-movies era. He also directed, among others, Na Primavera da Vida (Spring of Life) and O Tesouro Perdido (The Lost Treasure).

While Hollywood's first speaking and singing movie was The Jazz Singer from 1927, featuring Al Jolson, sound only was introduced in Brazilian movies by 1934. Early on, these talkies explored Carnaval celebrations and tunes without any serious consideration to plot. Este Mundo É um Pandeiro (This World Is One Small Drum) starring a then-unknown Carmen Miranda was the first Brazilian movie with sound.

In the '50s, cosmopolitan director and producer Alberto Cavalcante (1897-1982) brought prestige to the national movie industry heading Vera Cruz Studio and producing such movies as Caiçara (The Hunter) by Adolfo Celi and Tom Payne's Terra É Sempre Terra (The World Is Always the World). Cavalcanti has also made movies in France (Rien que les Heures, 1926), in England (The First Gentleman), 1947, in Germany (Herr Puntila und sein Knecht Matti, 1955), and in Italy (La Prima Notte, 1960).

For more than a decade, starting in the early sixties, a generation of young filmmakers made waves worldwide with cinema novo (new cinema). Among these directors there were Gláuber Rocha, Ruy Guerra, Cacá Diegues, Leon Hirzman, Paulo César Saraceni, Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, Roberto Farias, Roberto Santos, David Neves and Arnaldo Jabor.

The Manchete selection was made by a group of critics, historians and researchers, which explains why some of the most popular movies like the 1950s chanchadas (musical comedies), comedian Mazzaropi's works and those of contemporary Trapalhões never made the cut. On the other hand the list includes little-known gems from the beginning of the century like Humberto Mauro's Tesouro Perdido and Adhemar Gonzaga's Barro Humano.

The movies were chosen by movie experts Alberto Shatovsky, Antônio Moniz Vianna, Dejean Magno Pellegrin, Ely Azeredo, Fernando Albagli, Geraldo Queiroz, Gil Azevedo Araújo, José Lino Grünewald, Jurandir Noronha, Michel do Espírito Santo and Valério de Andrade. Many of them have dedicated their lives to the films, collecting them, writing about them and sometimes making them themselves.

1. Ganga Bruta (Rough Gangue) by Humberto Mauro (1933). Just one of several classics left by the pioneer director from the little town of Cataguases in the State of Minas Gerais. Mauro has also directed such classics as Brasa Dormida (Reposing Ember) and Descobrimento do Brasil (The Discovery of Brazil)

2. Vidas Secas (Barren Lives) by Nélson Pereira dos Santos (1963). Considered by many the best Brazilian movie ever made, the black and white work about poverty and despair in the Northeast backlands is based on Graciliano Ramos's book of same name. Dos Santos, whose 70th birthday is being celebrated nationwide, continues very active as a filmmaker.

3. O Pagador de Promessas (The Promise Keeper) by Anselmo Duarte (1962). It won the Cannes Festival Golden Palm. Based on a play by Dias Gomes, the film tells the story of a Nordestino (someone from the Northeast) who decides to give all he has to the poor and intent on fulfilling a vow against a priest's wishes to get a cross inside a church.

4. Amei um Bicheiro (I Loved a Numbers Game Runner) by Jorge Ileli (1953). The love story of a lowlife from Rio was a national big hit starring Jece Valadão and Wilson Grey.

5. Assalto ao Trem Pagador (The Pay-Train Robbery) by Roberto Farias (1962). Based on a true police story that happened in Rio.

6. Central do Brasil (Central Station) by Walter Salles Jr. (1998). Brazil's hope for the next Oscar, Central has been getting cheers and provoking tears all over the world. It is the most recent movie in the list. This story of a lady swindler turned into a good Samaritan was already awarded the 1998 Berlim Festival main prize, the Golden Lion.

7. Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol (God and the Devil on the Land of the Sun) by Glauber Rocha (1963). The critic loved this masterpiece by the most polemic and gifted of Brazilian filmmakers.

8. Todas as Mulheres do Mundo (All the Women in the World) by Domingos Oliveira (1966). A comedy that perpetuates the talent and charm of Leila Diniz, who died prematurely in a plane crash.

9. O Cangaceiro (The Bandit) by Lima Barreto (1953). The best known and most cited Brazilian movie overseas until the appearance of Pixote (1980). A romantic presentation of an outlaw on the Brazilian northeastern backlands.

10. A Ostra e o Vento (The Oyster and the Wind) by Walter Lima Júnior (1997).

The Top 50

1. Ganga Bruta (Rough Gangue) by Humberto Mauro (1933)

2. Vidas Secas (Barren Lives) by Nélson Pereira dos Santos (1963)

3. O Pagador de Promessas (The Promise Keeper) by Anselmo Duarte (1962)

4. Amei um Bicheiro (I Loved a Numbers Game Runner) by Jorge Ileli (1953)

5. Assalto ao Trem Pagador (The Pay-Train Robbery) by Roberto Farias (1962)

6. Central do Brasil (Central Station) by Walter Salles Jr. (1998)

7. Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol (God and the Devil on the Land of the Sun) by Gláuber Rocha (1963)

8. Todas as Mulheres do Mundo (All the Women in the World) by Domingos Oliveira (1966)

9. O Cangaceiro (The Bandit) by Lima Barreto (1953)

10. A Ostra e o Vento (The Oyster and the Wind) by Walter Lima Júnior (1997)

11. Limite (Limit) by Mário Peixoto (1931)

12. Rio 40 Graus (Rio 104 degrees F) by Nélson Pereira dos Santos (1955)

13. Os Cafajestes (The Scoundrels) by Ruy Guerra (1962)

14. A Hora e a Vez de Augusto Matraga (The Hour and the Turn of Augusto Matraga) by Roberto Santos (1966)

15. O Bandido da Luz Vermelha (The Red Light Bandit) by Rogério Sganzerla (1962)

16. Macunaíma (Macunaíma) by Joaquim Pedro de Andrade (1969)

17. Pixote, a Lei do Mais Fraco (Pixote, the Law of the Weakest) by Hector Babenco (1980)

18. Noite Vazia (Empty Night) by Walter Hugo Khouri (1964)

19. São Paulo S. A. (São Paulo Inc.) by Luiz Sérgio Person (1966)

20. A Intrusa (The IntruderLady) by Carlos Hugo Christensen (1980)

21. O Baile Perfumado (The Fragrant Ball) by Paulo Caldas and L. Ferreira (1997)

22. Favela dos Meus Amores (Shantytown of My Loves) by Humberto Mauro (1936)

23. Simão o Caolho (Simão the Cross-Eyed) by Alberto Cavalcanti (1952)

24. Os Fuzis (The Rifles) by Ruy Guerra (1963)

25. Menino de Engenho (Sugar Mill Boy) by Walter Lima Jr. (1965)

26. Dona Flor e Seus Dois Maridos (Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands by Bruno Barreto (1976)

27. Inocência (Innocence) by Walter Lima Júnior (1982)

28. Memórias do Cárcere (Memories of Jail) by Nélson Pereira dos Santos (1984)

29. Moleque Tião (Street Kid Tião) by José Carlos Burle (1942)

30. O Padre e a Moça ( The Priest and the Maiden) by Joaquim Pedro de Andrade (1965)

31. Viver de Morrer (To Live From Dying) by Jorge Ileli (1970)

32. Chuvas de Verão (Summer Rains) by Carlos Diegues (1996)

33. Lira do Delírio (Delirium Lyre) by Walter Lima Júnior (1977)

34. Bye Bye Brasil (Bye Bye, Brazil) by Carlos Diegues (1977)

35. Gaijin (Foreigner) by Tizuka Yamasaki (1980)

36. Eles Não Usam Black Tie (They Don't Wear Black Tie) by Leon Hirszman (1981)

37. A Marvada Carne (Mean Flesh) by André Klotzel (1985)

38. A Hora da Estrela (The Hour of the Star) by Suzana Amaral (1985)

39. Fragmentos da Vida (Life's Fragments) by José Medina (1929)

40. Tesouro Perdido (Lost Treasure) by Humberto Mauro (1926)

41. Barro Humano (Human Clay) by Adhemar Gonzaga (1928)

42. Alô Alô Carnaval (Hi, Hi, Carnaval) by Adhemar Gonzaga (1936)

43. Carnaval no Fogo (Carnaval in the Fire) by Watson Macedo (1950)

44. Tico-Tico no Fubá (Tico-Tico Bird in the Corn Flour) by Adolfo Celi (1951)

45. O Canto da Saudade (The Longing Corner) by Humberto Mauro (1952)

46. Agulha no Palheiro (Needle in the Haystack) by Alex Vianny (1953)

47. Absolutamente Certo! (Absolutely Right) by Anselmo Duarte (1957)

48. Mulheres e Milhões (Women and Millions) by Jorge Ileli (1961)

49. O Grande Momento (The Great Moment) by Roberto Santos (1958)

50. Carlota Joaquina, a Princesa do Brasil (Carlota Joaquina, the Princess of Brazil) by Carla Camurati (1996)


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