The Man Who Copied
TLA Releasing // R // $24.99 // August 16, 2005
Review by Joshua Zyber | posted September 16, 2005
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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Graphical Version
The Movie:
"Life is more complicated than a puzzle."

André operates a photocopier in a convenience store. It is not an exciting job. The paper goes on the plate, the button is pushed, the light sweeps across the page, and the copy comes out. The process is repeated, page after page, time and again, every day a copy of the last. The job does not require much skill or intelligence. A young Brazilian man, smart but not educated, André allows his mind to wander. In a nearly constant Amélie-style narration, he obsesses over the most minute details of everything he encounters: the workings of the photocopier, the half of a Shakespeare sonnet he is able to read on one of the pages he copies, and most importantly the cute girl Silvia who lives in the building across the street that he spies with binoculars every night. Like André, Silvia is a creature of habit with a set routine that she follows every time he watches her. This very much excites him.

His obsession with Silvia evolves into following her discretely to her job at a clothing store, and eventually he works up the courage to go inside and pretend to be a customer. André is kind of charming for a stalker, but has surprisingly little self-confidence. As his excuse to speak to the object of his desire, he claims to want to buy a robe for his mother. The ploy works. Silvia talks to him, and she is even more adorable when she speaks. His heart races. He can barely contain his elation, but there is a problem. André has no money. Operating a photocopier is not a high-paying profession. He can't afford the robe. Silvia will know that he is poor. She will realize that he didn't come for the robe, that he's only trying to flirt with her, and worse that he's been following her, which is fairly creepy. His plan is in shambles. He says that he will come back for the robe.

Desperately, André fixates on ways to get some money for the robe so that he may speak to the love of his life again. Can he get an advance on his salary? No. Does he know anyone he can borrow it from? No. Can he steal it in such a way that wouldn't hurt or inconvenience anyone? No. If only there was a way to make money, literally to make it, out of nothing. If not that, then at least to make more from what little bit of money he can obtain, sort of like multiplying it. But how do you do that? How do you take one thing and make more of it appear? How, indeed?

Writer-director Jorge Furtado's The Man Who Copied begins as a whimsical romantic comedy but grows into something much more complex. As André's small-time counterfeiting scheme runs into unexpected obstacles, such as how to pass the bills without being detected, his plans to be with Silvia also become more elaborate and require newer, more dangerous methods of making money. Part comedy, part serious drama, part thriller (echoes of Rear Window are unmistakable), the film has multi-layered characters and a rich, complicated plot with a hell of a big twist near the end. It is smartly written and directed with flair, including a couple of animated fantasy sequences. The story is laced with keen irony and also explores real concerns of the working poor in modern society. The Man Who Copied is a fascinating, exciting entry from the emerging Brazilian cinema scene.

The DVD from TLA releasing claims to be presented in the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio but has actually been slightly opened up to fill a 16:9 screen with no black bars. The framing is acceptable. The anamorphically enhanced picture is sharp and unfiltered, with clear and accurate if unexciting colors. The movie has a very naturalistic, unflashy photographic style. The image is clean and has next to no edge enhancement artifacts. Digital compression quality is adequate, with a few minor grain issues but no serious flaws.

The movie's Portuguese-language soundtrack is available in either Dolby Digital 2.0 or 5.1. Be warned that the disc defaults to the 2.0 track.

The 5.1 mix features a bouncy, aggressive musical score that regularly moves across the rear soundstage and has quite a bit of bass. Fidelity is a tad thin, and the ever-present voiceover narration sounds a little hollow, but this may be a recording issue rather than a DVD transfer artifact. This may not be a demo-worthy reference soundtrack, but it supports the film well.

Optional English subtitles are presented in a yellow font. The translation is pretty good, with no major grammatical errors.

The primary supplement is the 17-minute The Making of "The Man Who Copied" featurette, which appears to be a Brazilian EPK promo with English subtitles. The piece largely spends its time reiterating the plot of the movie, with many spoilers, and should not be watched before the movie under any circumstances. Some technical information about editing, sound mixing, and the digital intermediate stage of post production are also included.

The English-language theatrical trailer sounds like its narration was sounded out phonetically. The disc wraps up with a brief still gallery of shots that are all also on the DVD cover and some unrelated trailers for other releases from TLA.

No ROM supplements have been included.

Final Thoughts:
The Man Who Copied is an unexpectedly great little movie that had next to no distribution in the United States. The DVD has pretty good picture and sound, though not much in the way of supplements. It's worth a look.

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