Blood and Wine: A Brazilian Story
Cinema Epoch // Unrated // $24.98 // July 8, 2008
Review by Stephen Hawco | posted September 3, 2008
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The Film
A moving story about the oppression of the people, Blood and Wine: A Brazilian Story is a 2006 film made in Brazil (so don't get it mixed up with the 1996 Jack Nicholson movie). Its language is Portuguese, making it very unlikely that North American audiences will be able to understand it without subtitles. However, the theme is largely universal, and that is the only chance this Cinema Epoch DVD has of holding one's attention.

The core of the film takes place in 1959 through 1961 in the city of Goiana. Mateus, a young family man, asks a loan shark for money for his restaurant. The business takes off, despite Mateus' left wing convictions, but soon he and his patrons are being hassled by the corrupt police captain, Ranieri. Mateus and his wife, Antonia, deal with various family matters, like the death of Mateus' mother, and we kind of just follow them through life as they observe Brazil changing around them. Then, in 1961, Mateus' defense of various left wingers in the town lead to a tragedy, but it would be a spoiler to tell you any more. The epilogue of the film takes place in 1979.

So, yes, this is basically a political film. There is nothing subtle about the film's final message, presented through text, that political turmoil in any country leads to the abuse of innocents. There is nothing subtle about the militaristic music that starts on the soundtrack when Ranieri walks into the bar. He is portrayed as the stereotypical, film right winger: arrogant, corrupt, fervently capitalist, racist.

At the beginning and end of the film, there is scrolling text to explain the politics and the history behind the story. I, of course, can't read any of it, and the subtitles had trouble keeping up. The translation of the subtitles was horrible, anyway, amounting to broken English and a waste of time. No, really. If I were to write them here, you'd laugh.

The tone of Blood and Wine varies from assaultingly uncomfortable, during police interrogation scenes, to whimsical. There are some scenes in which the ghost of Mateus' father watches over the family, and even welcomes their grandmother into the afterlife. These felt very weird to me, and their meaning may have been lost in translation. They reminded me of Fellini's 8 , for whatever that's worth.

The film might be most appealing to those of you interested in left wing politics, but you would still have to go onto the internet after viewing it to look up the history of Brazil; the movie doesn't really explain very much. To be honest, I found it hard to sit through Blood and Wine even once. I was squirming in my chair.

On a personal note, this DVD wouldn't even play on my laptop, which features a Toshiba DVD player. It may be a miracle that I was able to write you a review at all. It worked pretty well on my Sony DVP-NS75H.


The Picture
The picture on Blood and Wine does not look good. The image is pretty bland, anyway, with even bright scenes looking somber. It is relatively sharp, especially upconverted, but the biggest problem is that the 16x9 picture is not enhanced for widescreen TV's. I had to zoom in to make it fill my TV, which made it look a little blurry. There is always some noise in the backgrounds, in any case.

The subtitles, which are a necessity, are perfect, being big, white, block letters. They are only over the image, not the black letterbox beneath, so zooming in on a 16x9 TV keeps them in view, but this wastes space on a 4x3 TV.

The Audio
There is only one audio option, which is Portuguese stereo 2.0. There are no commentaries or other language tracks. This makes the subtitles totally necessary for us English speakers. The mix is done well, with the dialogue being clear and the music being featured without overwhelming. But the audio will not blow you away, by any means. The base is essentially nonexistent.

The Special Features
There are absolutely no special features on this DVD. You can access something that advertises for other DVD releases, but even that is only a slideshow of movie posters. What can I say? This DVD is low quality.

Final Thoughts

Any film made in 2006 that isn't enhanced on its DVD release has problems. Blood and Wine is not impressive enough on DVD to warrant a purchase. While it may appeal to some people for various reasons (the politics, the Portuguese language, the Brazilian history), it won't hold the attention of the average North American viewer. Unfortunately, that's largely due to the poor quality of the DVD. Somehting like a historian's commentary track would have improved the situation by leaps. I'm going to have to say, if you can, "Rent It."

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