Brazilians are universally known for their passion, and what better way to celebrate that passion than with Caito Ortiz’s sensational romp Jules and Dolores (‘O Roubo Da Taca’). It’s an hour and a half of pure joy – a crime caper that absolutely zooms by, celebrating Brazil’s rich, colourful neighbourhoods and the country’s love for the beautiful game.
We learn at the start that ‘some of this actually happened’, a blasé, tongue-in-cheek addition to what is a wholly complete work. When cheeky chappy Peralta wishes to please his girlfriend Dolores and pay off his gambling debt to a notorious criminal known only as “The Reverend”, he and his good mate Beard decide to steal a replica of the Jules Rimet World Cup, only to accidentally steal the real version. Peralta becomes embroiled in a sticky situation, committing the cardinal sin against Brazilian football, with the possibility of betraying that love of his life and the other, his ‘trophy girlfriend’ Dolores (geddit?). What follows is a weaving, organised mess of inept thieves being chased by some pretty useless policeman, and a criminally sleazy Argentinean gold merchant trying to steal Peralta’s girl. Whilst Peralta is of course the culprit, it doesn’t stop the whole city and the police force from blaming Brazil’s football rivals for everything, the real “enemies” of the piece. Cracking stuff.
“charismatic enough with a smile to kill to make you sympathise with the hapless, sweaty muddle that he is”
Aesthetically, it’s Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice without all of the drug-fuelled haze and you can actually have a full idea of what the hell is going on. Ortiz’s direction really brings to life the vivid nature of 1980s Rio de Janeiro; a city full of vibrant energy and host to some admirably colourful characters. The streets are flashy and gorgeous, the underground poker-lairs, Peralta’s vice, are seedy and dimly lit. This contrast is managed beautifully and is a real treat for the eyes. The first ten minutes of the film follows Peralta and Beard’s haphazard heist, which turns out to be far easier than it should, with the camerawork being as exceptional as the chiaroscuro in the Federation building. The repeated dialogue in this opening scene is of note due to its simplicity. The only topics of discussion (with neither of the leads seemingly communicating properly) are pantyhose, nunchucks and Peralta’s need for a dump for ‘good luck’. This got many laughs from the audience, a trend that would rightly continue for the film’s duration. It has the grit of Narcos (a bit of gun toting, even some stapling of someone’s ear) with all the humour of a crime spoof such as The Pink Panther.
Paulo Tiefenthaler’s portrayal of Peralta is astonishingly lovable. A petty criminal, yes, but also charismatic enough with a smile to kill to make you sympathise with the hapless, sweaty muddle that he is. Watching him frolic about his kitchen in his red Y-fronts, drinking chocolate milk from the Jules Rimet trophy had us all giggling with glee, forgetting about the audacious criminal act he’d just committed. Additionally, a particularly tense and well-shot poker scene later in the film had me shaking my head, head in hands, muttering “you bloody idiot”. I wasn’t the only one. Oh, Peralta. The supporting cast assisted brilliantly in bringing this historical, crime-filled love story hybrid to life with some heart-warming performances. Ortiz’s settings and characters are all one in their quest to bring Brazilian passion to the fore.
Fast-paced, snappy scenes in a not-quite linear structure were the perfect fit for this film. In conjunction with some terrific archive footage of the best of Brazilian football from the Pelé and Socrates eras, Ortiz’s feature is blisteringly fun and down-right cool. For fans of football, it’s wonderful, and for those that hate it, it’s still almost as wonderful. Bom trabalho!
Image: Caito Oritz