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Central Station ("Central do Brasil")

Starring Fernanda Montenegro and Vinicius De Oliveira
Screenplay by João Emanuel Carneiro and Marcos Bernstein
Directed by Walter Salles
Website: www.spe.sony.com/classics/centralstation

IN SHORT: Nicely tempered Brazilian chick flick.

In Portuguese with English subtitles. So forgive me if I write like film student 'cuz that's what I have to do.

Central Station is the Brazilian entry for the Academy Awards so Cranky took a look. As always, the difficulty with foreign films is that you spend most of your time reading the screen instead of watching the production. Sometimes there are cultural or religious elements that are important, and considered a "given" by the film makers. It's harder to get swept away, which is where Cranky found his problems with this flick

In the city of Rio de Janeiro lives a shriveled up, retired school teacher named Dora (Fernanda Montenegro). She makes ends meet by writing letters for the illiterate at the Central Station train depot. Dora takes the cash, and cackles over the letters in the evening with her friend Irene (Marilia Pêra). Needless to say this hag never mails the letters, and leaves hundreds of people hanging with their miserable lives up in the air.

One of these folks is Ana (Sôia Lira), mother of 9-year old Josué (Vinicius De Oliveira). Josué's father lives somewhere in the northern hinterlands of Brazil and the boy wants to see Daddy. The lady keeps coming back to send letters and one day is killed by a bus, leaving Josué all alone in the heartless and cruel city. Something about Josué stirs up Dora, who takes him off the street and feeds him. This isn't going where you think, folks, because she sells to boy to a murdering flesh peddler named Pedrão (Otávio Augusto). Word is he kills the kidlets and sells the organs for cash. Must be a good business, 'cuz her payment gets Dora a new television.

The play between the two old ladies is an interesting one. Although Dora lies to Irene about where the money for the teevee came from, Irene pulls out the true story and totally freaks. Dora is swayed enough to rescue the boy and the pair flee to the north, a price on Dora's head.

It may not be a happy pairing, but it is an interesting adventure as the mother instincts Dora never exercised begin to surface. Josué is just distrustful enough to appear more than the cute, moptop kid you'd see in American movies. A bond is formed by the circumstances they travel through on the way to find the mysterious daddy, including a potential love interest for Dora and some kind of Christian pilgrimage (which is that religious stuff I mentioned up top. Cranky gets the feeling that there's a lot more significance to the events of the pilgrimage, which was totally lost on this Member of the Tribe).

Director Walter Salles has put together a very interesting flick. Both characters search for something they don't have. For Josué, it is a father. For Dora, it is an emotional center. Cranky's ex would have been a waterworks by the time the end titles rolled. Film students can debate the logical, if unsatisfying, ending all they'd like. Cranky could have waited for a pay per view showing.

Then again, Cranky always burbles at broken family tales. The subtitles, I think, got in the way this time.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Central Station, he would have paid . . .

$4.00

Pay per view level, which is where most of the foreign films I've seen end up. Central Station is a good film and it is not a waste of your time should you shell out the hard cash. It is strictly for the art house circuit.


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The Cranky Critic® is a Registered Trademark of, and his website is Copyright © 1995  -  2015   by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.