Antonio das Mortes (Glauber Rocha / Brazil-France-West Germany, 1969):
(O Dragão da Maldade contra o Santo Guerreiro)

History and folklore on the march in Glauber Rocha's Cinema Novo scorcher, quite the tropicalist cacophony. "The cross of love and the cross of hate" hold sway over the shrubby backlands, the last divide between cangaceiro bandits and oppressive landowners, the mirror-figure of Lampião shot down by the eponymous bounty hunter (cf. Peckinpah's Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid). A burly mass of beard, cape and remorse, Antonio das Mortes (Maurício do Valle) goes to Piranha Garden to quell a rebellion, paid by the blind honcho (Joffre Soares) to liquidate the defiant outlaw (Lorival Pariz). The deed is done, the Holy Girl (Rosa Maria Penna) precipitates the atonement: "He who kills his brother is sent to the bottom of the sea." The complex allegory on the dictatorship is a blitzkrieg on the Western, a most feverish medley of songs and rhymes and incantations and japes carries it through the Martian landscape. God's earth and the Devil's fences, the charity of flour, a continuous pageantry that encompasses operatic massacres. The Teacher (Othon Bastos) with rifle in hand can still learn, the bourgeoisie meanwhile has Odete Lara in lilac chiffon and perpetually windswept mane. Battered rock, blue and crimson wood, Monet's bouquet splotched with blood. "Politics are your department..." A parallelism with Parajanov and Jodorowsky, a vehement image composed across various planes of screen activity, a camera panning laterally for three minutes to take in an astonishing cordel ballad. Primeval realms, then suddenly Shell gas stations à la Pasolini (Oedipus Rex). "Levanta, sacode a poeira, e dá avolta por cima," the Brazilian condition. The revolution of destructive forces and creative forces, as Goytisolo would say, the slave's grandson (Mário Gusmão) wields St. George's spear in a closing blast of Viva Zapata! Not for nothing does Godard have Rocha at the dangerous crossroads in Le Vent d'est. Cinematography by Affonso Beato. With Hugo Carvana, Emmanuel Cavalcanti, and Vinícius Salvatori.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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