Rio, Zona Norte (Rio, Northern Zone). 1957. Brazil. Directed by Nelson Pereira dos Santos. In Portuguese; English subtitles. 90 min.
With Grande Otelo, Malu, Jece Valadão. While Pereira’s previous film, Rio, 100 Degrees, offered a panoramic view of the city and its inhabitants, here he focuses on the inner life of a single protagonist, the struggling composer Espírito da Luz Cardoso (a character modeled on the musician Zé Keti, who appears briefly in the film). Discovered on the train tracks at the film’s outset, clinging to life, he begins to recall key episodes of his recent past through a series of flashbacks—memories of new love found and lost, of a son who turned to a life of crime, and, perhaps most crucially, of his songs. Despite facing numerous hardships, including dealings with exploitative businessmen looking to profit from his art, Espírito remains optimistic, buoyed by the spirit of his music. Rio, Northern Zone is a powerful drama of inequity, set to a samba beat. 35mm.