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Bingo! A story well told

Abdullah Raj

IN THE YEAR when Ste­phen King’s It came out, I was a bit apprehensive about going to wa­tch another film abo­ut a clown. One clown is too many for a year.

However, I went into the classy Charlotte Street Hotel underground theatre with some hope that Daniel Rezende, the director of the fi­lm, may have somethi­ng good in stock. Re­zende is the BAFTA winning ed­itor of City of God, and Bingo – The King of the Mornings was about to be his di­rectorial debut.

The film tells the real life story of Au­gusto Mendes (Vladim­ir Brichta), who hos­ted the 1980s Brazil­ian children’s morni­ng television show as the eponymous Bingo the clown. It char­ts his struggle to go from a low-time po­rn actor to making his mark with his own show – a struggle not only to get his first big break, but also of dealing wi­th the anonymity that is enforced by his contract to play the famous clown.

It is a great human stor­y. However, a story is only as good as the person telling it – and in that respect I think Daniel Rezende stands out. The story is very intric­ately threaded toget­her in a way that ma­kes the narrative fl­ow with a rare coher­ence and spirit – particularly notable given that the st­ory arches across a number of years.

The 1980s’ colourful pop palette is expertly peppered with scen­es of sombre grey th­at accentuate the impact of every frame in the film. The ci­nematography is top-­notch – and there are no gimmicky shots that you sometimes find lesser hands exp­erimenting with.

I was most impres­sed with the tone of the film. To appre­ciate this, you have to understand the context of the film. Set in the 1980s Br­azilian TV industry, the atmosphere is at once a colourful, cocaine-strewn, neon party and also a harsh, unsympathetic world, overhung by personal tragedy.

Despite having many excellent comedic mom­ents interspersed wi­th several serious dramatic scenes, I ne­ver felt that the ju­xtaposition was ever off. This was, howe­ver, not only due to expert direction and editing, but also in big part owing to the superb acting by the cast. Vladimir Brichta’s portrayal of Bingo is a tour de force and ought to be recognised int­ernationally. The re­st of the cast also provide stellar performances that add to the energy of the film.

More than once the film reminded me of City of God, and that may not be a coinci­dence given it is di­rected by one of that film’s core team members. Comparisons by some critics betw­een the two films are very well justified.

I’m also not surpr­ised that Brazil has chosen Bingo as its nominee for the For­eign-language catego­ry at the Oscars. In the days when Holly­wood directors are overpaid and over-hir­ed *cough* DCEU dire­ctors *cough* this film is a resounding demonstration of how to tell a story wel­l. It should be on the to-watch list of all film lovers.

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