(BY ALI NADERZAD) Day 4 in Cannes began in earnest with the new Walter Salles film called Linha de Passe, an astonishingly beautiful fresco about a dysfunctional family living in the outskirts of Sao Paulo. Salles co-directed with Daniela Thomas and used a non-actors except for Vinicius de Oliveira who was seen in Salles’ earlier film Central Station. After several false starts and some screenplay changes and an ever-changing shoot (25% of the scenes were improvised) Salles and Thomas found a voice that is pure and a grammar that makes the story soar. Several themes jockey for position in this stirring and unforgettable film, one of which is the absence of the father. As Salles commented during the press conference following the film, Brazil’s fathers are often missing and mothers assume both parents’ role. In one scene, Cleuza, the mother (played by Sandra Corveloni) runs after her youngest son named Reginaldo (Kaique de Jesus Santos) to remind him: “I’m both your mother and your father!” Salles’ moody depiction of Sao Paulo live among the working class is unerring: these are the lives that are lived here, he tells us. But young people in Brazil all do not abdicate responsibility and become lured by guns and drugs, necessarily, as Salles reminded us after the film, making a reference to City of God. They may get lost on the way but many find their purpose. But Salles thankfully avoids clichés and shows that everything is not black and white (it would only have taken an especially gifted and intelligent director like Salles to shoot this. His movies have often been recognized as emulations of some of his predecessors like Visconti, Rossellini and Pasolini, a depiction which Salles not only finds accurate but invites, too, as he considers the vanguard of neo-realism as having had great influence on his work and on Brazilian cinema in general. There are several scenes depicting evangelists in a chapel or at a group baptism by a lake outside of Sao Paulo. According to Salles no extras were used in any of these scenes. The parishioners in Linha de Passe are actual parishioners, the people at the bus depot are actual busline workers, etc. When placed under the microscope Linha de Passe could be more accurately described as a collage of different stories which really happened. One such event was that of a young boy who “borrowed” a city bus several times in search of a missing father whom he suspected himself drove a bus. The story broke out in Brazilian news three years ago and rightfully received a lot of attention. Who’s going to turn a deaf ear to a boy’s thirsty quest for an absent father? Salles took what is now a near-forgotten news item and turned it into a stirring moment. Reginaldo (Kaique de Jesus Santos) drove his bus toward an unknown life but wearing a brand new expression on his face. The sense of gloom is gone from it and our faith in the cinematic experience of storytelling is once again replenished. Walter Salles, he of The Motorcycle Diaries and Central Station, has made a sublime picture which looks to be a strong contender for the Palme D’Or.

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