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Cannes 08: Walter Salles on “Linha de Passe”

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05182008_linhadepasse1.jpgBy Erica Abeel

The abiding humanism we’ve come to expect from Walter Salles is abundantly present in “Linha de Passe,” his luminous competition entry in this year’s Cannes. Co-directed with Daniela Thomas, the film explores the Brazilian underclass through the lives of four brothers who live with their mother on the outskirts of teeming São Paulo. But though the family leads a hardscrabble life in an unforgiving milieu, “Linha” is no “City of God.” The brothers may skirt violence and crime, yet they struggle to reinvent themselves, continuing to search, however misguidedly, for a way to rise above their circumstances.

One son (Vinícius de Oliveira from Salles’s “Central Station,” sole actor in a cast of non-pros) hopes to use soccer as his ticket out. A second braves the mockery of friends and family to embrace religion and assist a local pastor. Touchingly, the youngest boy, fathered by a black bus-driver, becomes obsessed with learning to drive a city bus. The matriarch — a sort of Latin Mother Courage — is middle-aged, worn, and, shockingly, pregnant, yet she manages to support the family as a housekeeper and hews to her own brand of morality.

Shot in a breathless quasi-documentary style and often indifferently lit, “Linha” alternates close-ups with rocketing rides down São Paulo’s jammed roadways. There’s a sometimes uneasy mix of lyricism — conveyed through the repeated motif of raised hands — and gritty realism. Unlikely to do the boffo business of “The Motorcycle Diaries,” “Linha” is nonetheless an inspiriting installment in Salles’s ongoing examination of Brazil.

To what extent are the characters in “Linha de Passe” drawn from real life?

05182008_linhadepasse2.jpgGenerally, the film’s based on real stories that we’ve integrated into a single story. For instance, Reginaldo [the youngest son] was inspired by a real life story in Brazil: a fourteen-year-old boy went searching for his father, knowing only that he was a bus driver. The boy ended up driving a bus for three hours before getting stopped.

How did you share the directing with Daniela Thomas?

We just did it, I can’t really define how. Because we’re two, we become ten or twenty. The film is a team effort. There’s also lots of discussion with the crew and actors — things are up for grabs. We’ve tried to return to the concept of film as a collective adventure, enriched by different perspectives. When I shoot with Daniela the result is harsher, grittier than if I were alone. It becomes more immediate with her on board. There’s a dialectic, everything’s shared, made with four hands. What I like about making a four-handed film is that it fosters the possibility of destabilization.

How much of “Linha de Passe” was improvised?

We didn’t block the actors — the camera serves them. And there was constant improvisation — at least twenty percent was not written. The actors had a lot of freedom in their gestures, action and language, which is very interesting.

Elsewhere you’ve stated that through film, you’d like to periodically take the pulse of life in Brazil. Is there a recurring theme?

Yes, there’s a chronic absence of the father in Brazil — 25 percent are absent from the family. Women who run the family are a moral force. In the film there are ersatz fathers: the pastor, the bus driver, the trainer. But the mother in “Linha” says something very telling to her son: “I’m both the father and mother of all of you.” That’s also true for me and Daniela!

05182008_linhadepasse3.jpgIt seems as if São Paulo is almost a 6th character in “Linha de Passe.” Could you explain how the city is used in the film?

São Paulo is huge. There’s no escape from it, like in Rio, where there’s the sea. São Paulo is overwhelming — its streets, underpasses, new neighborhoods and constant growth. It’s like a city at the end of the world. We dove into the city’s outskirts. We knew where the family lived, which buses they took. The characters lived together in the house where we shot the film

There are many intersecting stories in the film. What was your organizing principle?

We saw the script not only as a single dramatic structure, but as about characters who dive into each other. In the editing room we tried different ways of breaking up the scenes, but in the final montage we returned to our original vision. It’s a dysfunctional family, a family in collision. But there’s also a deep connection between them. This film goes in search of that connection, in search of that fraternity. You can’t romanticize Brazil. What you can do is make a film that includes violence, yet rejects it. The fact is 90 percent of Brazilians try to surmount violence. I wanted to make a film, for once, that portrays Brazil as a place where people want to find a way out.

[Photos: “Linha de Passe”; director Walter Salles – Pathé Pictures International, 2008]


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.