City Of God is a movie about drug dealers, murders, and growing up poor and neglected in the Rio favelas, but it’s so stylish and energetic, so creatively and enthusiastically staged, and so beautifully acted that it’s easy to gloss over some of its deepest horrors. The Dissolve’s staff is a little torn over whether that’s a good thing. Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund’s 2002 adaptation of Paulo Lins’ novel has been called a “South American GoodFellas,” in part because it tells a similar story of wannabe-gangsters proudly growing up to achieve their criminal ambitions. But like Goodfellas, it also tells its story in a colorfully entertaining way, with a narrator in the midst of the mess consciously framing his own story as a series of threads and fables and flashbacks. City Of God is a story of extremes—extreme poverty, extreme greed, and the extreme violence that results when the first two collide—and it’s appropriately presented in a uniquely outsized way. It was nominated for four Academy Awards (including Best Director and Best Cinematography), because it’s the kind of message film that makes the Academy take notice, but it’s still thrilling and propulsive in a way most message movies aren’t.
Next week, we’ll start talking over City Of God on Monday, with a Keynote addressing how the film’s unique, jumpy storytelling process reflects its protagonist’s life. On Tuesday, the staff forum will dig into the film’s extreme stylization, what law and order and crime and punishment look like to the characters, and how the narrator mythologizes his generation in the way he presents their story. And Wednesday will feature an essay on the semi-sequel City Of Men, a spin-off from the four-season follow-up TV series of the same name. We hope you’ll tune in and join us for a conversation about this fantastic favorite of ours.
And coming up soon in Movie Of The Week:
September 30: The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension
October 7: Los Angeles Plays Itself
October 14: Chungking Express
October 21: Trouble In Paradise