Amor Estranho Amor (Walter Hugo Khouri / Brazil, 1982):

The one with a naked Xuxa rubbing against a 12-year-old boy, according to horny hipsters who couldn't care less that the whole thing proceeds from Le Règle du Jeu: it's the tawny ingénue instead of Octave wriggling out of the bear costume, and Tarcísio Meira has a La Chesnaye moment toasting the champagne of the night while suavely condescending to the coffee and milk of the morning after. The year is 1937 and the encroaching dictatorship coup casts a pall over the festivities, though Walter Hugo Khouri shifts matters from the political to the personal (and the lyrical-carnal) as soon as Vera Fischer wafts down the staircase to meet her son near the beginning, an opulent catalogue of Freudian kinks swathed in chiffon. The house is a posh brothel with a Dixieland band borrowed from Pretty Baby, only the child's innocence is pawed at rather than auctioned off -- young Marcelo Ribeiro is dropped off at the Art Deco cathouse where mommy Fisher is the main attraction, and Matilde Mastrangi, dolled up like Myrna Loy, offers him a pubic glimpse before he's even unpacked the luggage. Settled in the attic, the tyke gets a privileged overhead view of both the intertwining intrigues and softcore romping: Xuxa outfitted for the party starts out as Michelangelo's Venus and ends as Von Sternberg's Blonde Venus, scheming politician Meira grins with smug avidness to triple mirror reflections while wrapped in a towel. Brazil's identity here is a curious boy parachuted into a harem as upheavals ferment just outside the marble halls, a delicately randy joke modulated by the wryness of Khouri's oneiric mise en scène into private reverie, with its oedipal culmination a gentle punchline. Love is strange. Dismissed as pure insouciant lechery, Khouri's film is a subtle historical document coming at the tail's end of a nation's decades of oppression, an old man winking fondly back at his ravishment, finally able to smile at the past. With Íris Bruzzi, Mauro Mendonça, and Walter Forster.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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