The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmão
[…] «The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão» is a piece of bravura. D.P. Hélène Louvart lenses make the light whisper, contributing to underlining the murkiness of Euridice´s and Guida’s existences in such a delicate manner that its images seem to be about to dissolve themselves into a melancholic out of focus.
[…] Karim Aïnouz never forgets that melodrama is a form of comedy and keeps a curb on pathos with an overelaborated mise-en-scène and the carnivalesque behavior of the characters.
Opaque, stoic Eurídice and her sister, the rash and randy Guida are the protagonists of Brazilian director Karim Aïnouz’s stylized melodrama The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão, a sumptuous tale of women at the mercy of social prejudices situated in 1950’s Rio de Janeiro, awarded at Un Certain Regard section in the last Festival of Cannes.
Some months after having fled to Europe, seduced by the physiological spell of a sturdy Greek sailor, Guida comes back to the parental home, abandoned, lost and pregnant, only to be drastically rejected by her father Manuel, thus beginning her banishment from her family, especially the beloved Eurídice, who according to a cruel lie told by her father (that Guida believes) is studying piano in Vienna to become a great musician. Until the end of her life Guida will reside in another part of the city, under the care of black ex-prostitute Filomena, described by her as «my mother, my father and also my sister» (and probably lover), writing letters to Eurídice that only will reach its addressee six decades later.
In the volcanic Sixties, many young Latin American filmmakers rose up in revolt against melodrama, this opium of the masses that was the daily bread of cinema goers of their continent. For them, Brecht and Italian Neorealism, Soviet avant-garde and French New Wave, plus Marx and Freud, among others, were decisive influences to shape a radical discourse both formally and ideologically far from the “cinema of tears”. However, other directors tried to come to terms with the genre and used it in a more sophisticated way than their predecessors, as Humberto Solás did in his debut movie, Lucia (1968), an exuberant Viscontian approach to Cuban history. Thanks to the rediscovery of Douglas Sirk Hollywood’s weepies of the 50’s and Buñuel’s Mexican films of the same period, the melodrama (via Fassbinder, John Waters, Werner Schroeter, the first Almodovar, Arturo Ripstein/Paz Alicia Garciadiego) was reborn through complex mise-en-scène expressing mature visions of reality. This is the genealogy of Aïnouz’s new film.
The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão is a piece of bravura. D.P. Hélène Louvart lenses make the light whisper, contributing to underlining the murkiness of Euridice´s and Guida’s existences in such a delicate manner that its images seem to be about to dissolve themselves into a melancholic out of focus, that sometimes we have the impression to be witnessing how the present becomes a painful past. Homage to master Douglas Sirk, the picture is always proclaiming the artifice of its construction. Patches of red, green and blue, and the use of a frame within a frame and mirrors show the parallel lives of the sisters Gusmão as if they were in fragments, caged birds in a masculine world.
The film is prodigal in melodrama’s topics: rejection of a daughter on decency grounds; a destructive lie; insurmountable distance between loved ones; marriage of convenience; black woman helping white woman; social barriers; abandoned child; a foreign city where happiness and success is possible; strict father and submissive mother; missed letters; uncomfortable sex, but Karim Aïnouz never forgets that melodrama is a form of comedy and keeps a curb on pathos with an overelaborated mise-en-scène and the carnivalesque behavior of the characters. In this way the childish husband of Eurídice is nearer to caricature than to monstrosity, as in the wedding night when his sexual urgencies become a skit of the macho role; or when sisters, their children and moralistic father chance upon a café and, in what a conventional movie would be a stochastic showpiece of reconciliation, becomes - thanks to a virtuosity of montage – a demonstration of the impossibility of a joyful meeting. The conscious excess of form reduces the sentimental flamboyance of the story.
Unfortunately, a film that during two hours has carved out so wisely his journey through melodrama´s codes went awry in the last minutes when it rushed into the soupy rocks of an unworthy epilogue, a bread and circuses imposition of the producers that could not give up the pleasure of jerking the audience off. This O Globo paint thrown in the spotless face of cinema, a good candidate to win the Palm D´Or of the atrocities committed in this year, is a new evidence that money is not a creative tool. Despite this aesthetic crime, The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão emerges as one of the remarkable pictures of 2019.
Text: Jorge Yglesias
First published: December 17, 2019