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The Aesthetics of Hunger and the Flowers of Evil

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Brazil, one of the largest and most predominately Catholic nations in the world, has had a curious relationship with dictatorships and state-controlled media. One deposed leader took advantage of the relaxed broadcast standards left in his wake by buying radio airtime in the country's biggest urban center. His self-promotional announcements, deliberately couched between weather forecasts, got him democratically reelected president a few years later!

Beginning in 1964, Brazilian military rule and censorship began in earnest. The newly installed junta outlawed political parties and a constitution which had been in effect for less than two decades. Their Fifth Institutional Act gave them full latitude to ban any news or entertainment which might erode public morality.

Underground filmmakers countered the resulting influx of government-sanctioned T& A films or “pornochanchadas” with unapologetically provocative low-budget films. Collectively known as Mouth of Garbage Cinema, after the slums of Sao Paolo where many were produced, movies such as "Killed the Family and Went to the Cinema," "Orgy, or the Man Who Gave Birth" and "How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman" were populated with cannibalistic doctors, cigar-chomping skulls, transvestite detectives, self-castrating men and sadistic undertakers. Artur Omar, Oswald de Andrade and others thumbed their noses at officials with images apparently influenced by Surrealism; including accidental electrocutions, people throwing cream pies, and murderous catfights set to Carmen Miranda tunes.

One of these renegades, Jose Mojica Marins - Ze Do Caixao or "Coffin Joe" to his fans - is currently storming northward with videos of his films from the 60s through the 80s, expressly subtitled in English. Of special interest is "Hallucinations of a Deranged Mind ," a mixed-media compilation of every shot officially censored from his career, prior to the restoration of democracy. This delerium consists mostly of excruciatingly depicted body piercing, satanic-looking wax candles and hefty but scantily clad belly dancers. The crowning achievement, however, is a lingering sequence of Coffin Joe himself - majestically descending a living human staircase.

Even in the 90s, Mojica upholds the motto of Sao Paolo's underground, the Udigrudi. For a garbage-picker's cinema the screen should be dirty, with only beauty pilfered from the squalor allowed. As "Cult Movies" quotes him, from one of his letters, "I breathe and drink the essence of the primitive cinema."

by PicPal's Jennifer Kramer


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