This book provides a chronological study of popular cinema in Brazil since the introduction of sound at the beginning of the 1930s. It begins the study with a brief discussion of how people understand the term 'popular cinema', particularly within a Latin American context. The focus is on films that have intentionally engaged with 'low-brow' cultural products, whose origins lie in pre-industrial traditions, and which have been enjoyed by wide sectors of the population, chiefly at the lower end of the social hierarchy. Perhaps the most important contribution of the chanchada of the 1950s was to render visible a social class within Brazil's socio-cultural landscape, and to champion the underdog, who succeeds in triumphing, through malandragem, over more powerful opponents. Brazilian popular cinema, at least until the 1980s, can be seen as a direct descendant of other shared cultural experiences. Popular film in Brazil is littered with examples of carnivalesque inversions of societal norms and established hierarchies. The 1930s witnessed the rise of the radio, the record industry and the talking cinema. The first half of the 1940s witnessed a continuation of Getúlio Vargas's quest for economic expansion based on the creation of a dignified workforce, rewarded for its efforts by improvements in the welfare system. The book also looks at three very popular cinematic sub-genres which provided a continuation of the chanchada tradition in Brazilian filmmaking: the films of Amacio Mazzaropi; those of the comedic quartet known as the Trapalhoes; and the so-called pornochanchada series of films.
; those of the comedic quartet known as the
Trapalhões; and the so-called pornochanchada series of films. The
second part of the chapter concentrates on three of the biggest box-office
successes of all time in Brazilian cinema: Carlos Diegues’s Xica da
Silva ( Xica , 1976); Bruno Barreto’s Dona Flor e seus dois
maridos ( Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands , 1976) and Neville
D’Almeida’s A dama do lotação ( Lady on the Bus
Cinema novo, utopia and popular
Many of the films that have been
examined so far in this study, the chanchada, the films of Mazzaropi,
those of the Trapalhões and Coffin Joe, and the pornochanchada, are
about as far removed as is possible from classic 1960s cinema novo,
the films that Brazil is best known for on an international art-house stage.
But as was witnessed in its Tropicalist phase
aimed more at children than adults. Unsurprisingly, many
pornochanchadas (the soft-core porn comedies to be discussed in Chapter 6 ) also include Benny Hill-style
high-camp chase and fight sequences. For example, in Histórias que nossas
babás não contavam (Stories Our Nannies Never Told Us, 1979), an erotic
spoof of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, an effete outlaw is chased
and deliberately allows himself to be caught by Costinha, his
of the sexual romps depicted on screen
involve biting, for example. In fact, a number of scenes in Macunaíma
are reminiscent of the fledgling pornochanchada genre, to be
discussed in detail in Chapter 6 ,
particularly those that depict a bone-idle protagonist constantly on the
lookout for a smutty, all-consuming kind of sex, referred to in
Macunaíma via a euphemism, the verb brincar (to play), a
Rabinow ( 1984 : 188–225, 206–56); Foucault ( 1994 ).
For more information on the history of
Embrafilme, see Dahl ( 1995 : 105–8),
Johnson ( 1995 : 362–86); Johnson ( 1987 : 137–70).
A useful discussion of the pornochanchada
appears in Dennison and
Ibid., p. 139 (our translation).
Ibid., p. 140 (our translation). Similar
efforts were made by certain filmmakers in the 1970s to assert the
differences between the pornochanchada and erotic comedies, as
examined in Chapter 6 .
Hollywood movies or even a
well-known star, Atlântida’s relationship with the North American film
industry evolved in the 1950s, giving rise to sophisticated film parodies.
The studio thus gave the chanchada genre a new comic twist, that
would be further exploited by the pornochanchadas of the 1970s, as
discussed in Chapter 6 , not least in the
Brazilian Version’ of Jaws , entitled Bacalhau (Codfish