Wednesday, December 7, 2016

'Brazil' (1944) BD: An American Writer in Love Blames it on Rio


Chicago-based Olive Films shows that it knows what the heart wants in timing the December 6, 2016 Blu-ray release of the 1944 musical-comedy "Brazil" to coincide with the onset of cold and snowy weather in much of the United States. Another awesome thing about "Brazil" is that leading lady Virginia Bruce  (also known for scads o other great roles that include the titular character in the MUST-SEE 1940 scifi classic "The Invisible Woman") proves that making a terrific "Road" style film does not require any boys.

Bruce plays Lois Lane style American travel writer Nicky Henderson, who flies down to Rio for research for a book on the "real Brazil." One snag is that she is not so-popular in that country based on a prior not-so-nice book titled "How to Marry a Latin" that she wrote. This history makes the job of her assigned guide Rod Walker of the local American embassy challenging.

In true screwball/musical comedy style, Henderson ditching Walker to seek a guide who will show her the real Brazil leads to a typical cute meeting with local celebrity composer Miguel Soares, whom Henderson soon engages.

For his part, Soares is under a tight deadline to compose a new song. Business partner/best friend/roommate/ex pat Everett St. John Everett ((of course) brilliantly played by character actor Edward Everett Horton) having accepted a large payment from a (soon-to-arrive) New York music publisher for unfinished work of Soares further contributes to the hilarity.

The above elements fantastically mesh as Soares devises a comically complex plot to woo Henderson for the asserted reason of national pride, Henderson ventures beyond Rio to discover the true culture of the titular country, Walker frantically tries to keep up, and the music publisher finds himself playing the straight man on his arrival roughly halfway through the film.

These elements additionally set the scene (pun intended) for the lavish musical numbers that are standard for these movies. These include Walker taking Henderson to night clubs providing a forum for dancing team Velaz & Yolanda, whom Olive shares are "the King and the Queen of the Tango," and cowboy singing star Roy Rogers to do their things.

One number that has happy peasants joyfully dancing as they pick coffee beans is especially reminiscent of the era and the type of scenes that killjoy unduly PC types in 2016 bother.

The comedy elements are equally predictable but just as entertaining as the musical portions of our program. Of course, Henderson learns that Soares is playing her for a fool. However, it is equally predictable that he really loves her and that they end up together in the end.

This textbook example of the musical comedies during the Golden Age of Hollywood nicely remind of us the way that they used to make 'em. The wisecracking, G-rated courting and squabbling, and extravagant song-and-dance numbers allow all of us to forget forget our troubles and chase our blues away.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Brazil" is strongly encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.