Movie Review: Madame Satã

By Moira Sullivan
Movie Magazine International
Karim Aïnouz' Madame Satã has a unique structure that breaks up narrative linearity. The exquisite cinematography by Walter Carvalho takes us on new journeys in storytelling that are rough, and at the same time magical. Digital shots trace the magnificent physicality of João Francisco dos Santos, the legendary Brazilian cross gender dresser from the 1930's, powerfully portrayed by Emiliano Queiroz. João, a proud and creative gay man who refused to buy into gender stereotype is very much an androgynous being, soulful and at the same time outrageous.

Aïnouz' breaks up the normative family structure positing João, Laurita and daughter, and Tabu, providing a picture of an unconventional family. The director says that the family mirrors the traditional bourgeois Brazilian family of the time with father, mother, child and maid. They are engaged like any other in survival, emotion and compassion, however live on the outskirts of society. Condemned as street scum from Lapa they are typically denied privileges such as entrance to clubs. João's rage central to his character consumes him and he is determined to find respect by any means necessary.

Such a quest wound him up in jail on occasion, and in numerous fights. Eventually he finds a magnificent form for dressing inspired by Hollywood films by Cecil B. DeMille. Laurita calls him a cross between Rudolph Valentino, Johnny Weismuller and Gary Cooper. However, authentic inspiration comes from other syncretisms: the Candomblé god of war Ogun as well as Josephine Baker.

The final Rio carnival scene is designed as a way of bringing spectators to their feet with powerful rhythms. In the final moments of the film we witness the persona of Jamecy which João has chosen as a female identity. The scene takes place at the Rio carnival and bears witness to the strength that we all possess until unleashed. The music from the film is from the 1930's and unfortunately, there will be no separate release.

For Movie Magazine, this is Moira Sullivan, Stockholm Sweden

More Information:
Madame Satã
Brazil, France - 2002