A Cinematographer's View By Leonardo Luiz Ferreira

in 7th Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival

by Leonardo Luiz Ferreira

Walter Carvalho has, since the eighties, become the most important cinematographer in Brazilian cinema. Filmmakers dream to work with him, despite the nature of his previous projects being commercial – like Susana Werneck’s Amores Possíveis (2001) – or experimental and artsy – like Filme de Amor (2003) by Julio Bressane. At the Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival, he’s credited, as cinematographer, on two films from the Brazilian Premiere section: The Machine (A Máquina), by João Falcão, and Delicate Crime (Crime delicado), by Beto Brant.

Even with his busy work schedule, Carvalho has directed four projects: Janela da Alma (2001), co-directed by João Jardim, a documentary reflecting on sight with testimonials from Portuguese writer José Saramago and German director Wim Wenders; Lunário Perpétuo (2003), a recording of Antonio Nóbrega’s show of Brazilian folklore at the Federal University Theatre of Pernambuco in Recife; the box-office hit Cazuza – O Tempo Não Pára (2004), co-directed by Sandra Werneck, a biography of a Brazilian rock star who died from AIDS in 1990; and Moacir, Brutal Art (Moacir, arte bruta), the most significant documentary at this year’s festival. The movie is dedicated to the filmmaker León Hirzsman, one of the precursors of the Cinema Novo movement, and his work with “Imagens do Inconsciente” (Unconscious Images), which shows art made from patients in a sanatorium.

Recognition as Cinematographer

Walter Carvalho was born in Paraíba, Brazil, in 1948. He arrived in Rio de Janeiro in 1968 and studied graphic design. His involvement with cinema started when he accompanied his brother Vladimir in the shooting of works like O País de São Saruê (1971). After that, he was the assistant director of cinematography to Dib Lufti, José Medeiros and Fernando Duarte, and made his debut as a photographer in 1973 with Boi de Prata (1973), by Augusto Ribeiro Jr. Since then, Walter has won several prizes, in festivals like Cartagena, Huelva and Brasilia, for his cinematography. The recognition of his works came with Central do Brasil (1998), by Walter Salles, followed by Madame Satã (2002), by Karim Aïnouz, in which he makes unforgettable images that unite bodies and emotions with movements of brightness.

A quotation by Jung promotes the perfect entrance to the universe portrayed in Moacir, Brutal Art. It says: “Painting what we see standing in front of us is different than painting what we see inside of us.” The subject of the film, Moacir Dias, is considered an eccentric in his community. He lives in a world apart and, strangely, doesn’t even know how old he is. Only art keeps him alive.

Moacir, Painter

The documentary was shot in Chapada dos Veadeiros, Goiás. But there isn’t the preoccupation to describe the place and his inhabitants, since they don’t influence the artist. Nevertheless, the opening shots thoroughly describe the atmosphere, by registering the surrounding nature, the animals and a beautiful panoramic view of the sky.

The subtitle, “Brutal Art”, contains the explicit definition of the character. Moacir doesn’t have the knowledge about painting or drawing, nor has he gone to school a single day of his life. He paints only what he feels, without explaining the creations that he puts on his canvases and shows his world. “Painting is his language, it’s his voice”, affirms one of his admirers. But we see in the film that his work hasn’t always been accepted: people in the neighborhood called the police to arrest him when he drew naked women in his home.

Walter Carvalho captures with precision Moacir’s work method. He utilizes distorted shots, but without abusing the squeezed lens to focus in on the character. The best moments of the film are when the filmmaker puts the camera steadily in front of the painter to capture him in action. There’s a parallel here with Clouzot’s Le Mystère Picasso (1956), by far the best document in cinema about the process of creation by a painter.

The art is inside of us doesn’t depend on scholarship or what you’re born into. And Moacir is a living example of that. He depicts the world regardless if anyone will understand. Art doesn’t have to be explained or have a unique definition. The long, tortuous course can be the right one for the artist.