Film's 'New Barbarians.'
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One of the best known of the new films is Leon Hirszman's ''They Don't Wear Black Tie,'' a movie that achieved both critical acclaim abroad (winning the ''Golden Bear'' at the 1981 Venice Film Festival) and box office success (especially in Europe). ''Black Tie'' deals with the life of a labor organizer and his family in a working-class suburb of Sao Paulo.Skip to next paragraph
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Hirszman is another Cinema Novo veteran. He is the son of Polish Jewish immigrants and has a reddish-blond beard, large frame, and intense manner more frequently found among New York intellectuals than in Rio de Janeiro's laid-back art and film scene. During lunch at his Copacabana apartment, Hirszman emphasized the importance of making first-rate films for the general public:
''It's not enough to make films analyzing 'the situation of the people,' as Cinema Novo did. These films must also be seen by the people,'' he says.
''To make the kinds of films I want, you have to learn how to provoke real emotion and not engage in fake manipulation,'' he explains. ''The movies I am interested in should have a national character. They should reflect the national realities that the people are living.''
Some directors, however, are not very impressed by the results produced so far by the new union between art and the marketplace.
Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, the son of a well-known Brazilian intellectual, is another leading director from the '60s.
In his Ipanema apartment in Rio, sitting in a library overflowing with books on cinema, philosophy, and Brazilian culture, Andrade voices his doubts: ''Brazilian cinema is not going through a good stage now. In fact, we are passing through a quite mediocre phase. We (Brazilian filmmakers) need to make a greater effort of imagination. One film after another has failed. It is true that some humanist films have been successful, but they are stylistically too conservative and full of sticky sentimentalism.'' Andrade says Brazil is going through brutal transformations in its way of life. ''Social and family relations , the ways people behave toward each other daily, are changing rapidly. We need films which reflect these changes, films which change the viewers' sensibilities.''
Julio Bressane is Brazil's leading director of avant-garde or ''underground'' movies. He points out that given the cost of a ticket, a majority of Brazilians can't afford movies. Thus, he argues, no matter how ''mass market'' it strives to be, the Brazilian film industry is producing for what is, relatively speaking , still an economic elite.
Most observers agree, however, that although Brazilian cinema is not making the kind of ground-breaking, artistically venturesome films that marked the Cinema Novo period, some of the mass-market movies have a freshness, color, and sense of life that compare favorably with much of Hollywood's output.
Much of this new filmmaking deals with themes from Brazilian history and literature. ''As Brazilian art begins to unfreeze, the explanation of Brazil's past is unfreezing with it,'' says Saraceni.
For Nelson Perrerra dos Santos, one of the most famous Cinema Novo directors, historical films are particularly useful for holding up a mirror to the present. As he explains it, ''the history of Brazil is cyclical - what happened in the ' 70s happened also in the '30s. In 1945 we had an apertura like the present one.''
Perrerra is now directing a film called ''Memorias do Carcel'' (''Memories of Jail''), which takes place during the dictatorship of Getulio Vargas (1930-45), a period particularly relevant to Brazil's present. The movie is based on a novel by Brazilian author Graciliano Ramos.
The book, written in 1953, tells of the author's political imprisonment during the 1930s. For Perrerra, ''The prison here serves as a metaphor for Brazilian society. It contains people of all walks of life and political persuasions . . . for me the book shows us that people and societies make their own prisons, and don't leave them because they don't know how. The final goal of both the book and my film is to show what liberty is and the importance of it, to free man from his social and psychological bonds. Even in prison, man can be free.''