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In my essay I will discuss the differences between national cinema and Hollywood cinema by using Rio de Janeiro¡¯s famous film City of God. There will be three parts in my following main body, the first part is a simple review of the film City of God, I will try to use the review to show the film structure and some different new points from this, show the how did the ¡®Shocking, frightening, thrilling and funny¡¯ (Nev Pierce) work in the film. The second part is my discussion parts; I will refer some typical Hollywood big name films such as Gangs in New York, Shawshank¡¯s Redemption, and Good Fellas to discuss the main differences between City of God and other national films. The third part is my summary, I will use my knowledge to analyse why there have big different between both kind of films and their advantages.
By simply review, I will say, "City of God" ("Cidade de Deus") is the story of a boy who lives in a "favela" what is the word of slum in english on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. The "favela" is like a shantytown witch called "Cidade de Deus" in the film. And from the beginning to the end, throughout this stylish movie both the boy and the favela grow.
In the film, we can see the story telling styles are quite like the some Hollywood films such as Shawshank¡¯s Redemption. As Morgan Freeman been a narrator Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding in the film Shawshank¡¯s Redemption, The same roll in City of God is boy, Rocket (Buscap¨¦ in Portuguese, played by Alexandre Rodrigues), who is born in Cidade de Deus and grows up in Cidade. He is quiet and easygoing, just a non-violent person seeking a way to survive in a brutal environment.
The director makes Rocket a narrator in this movie; I think the reason is find an intermediary between gangs and the press, inside of the evil world and the outside. So we can see, his voice that accompanies us throughout many of the stories that "City of God" has to offer by Rocket¡¯s photography dream became true.
Still the same as Shawshank¡¯s Redemption, the main character also belongs to Andy Dufresne (by Tim Robbins). So in the City of God, The other main characters in City of God are the gangs, like Li'l Z¨¦ (by Leandro Frimino) who was one of the boys that used to play soccer with Rocket, grow up to become a murderer and a drug lord, someone that makes his own laws.
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Also, in my opinion, the "city" itself can be considered as anther main character, ¡®that starts merely as a couple of houses, but that grows immensely as years go by. The activities in which its inhabitants are involved also change, from petty robbery to organized crime that involves drug dealing and arms trafficking.¡¯ (ROGER EBERT:2003). So we can say, from 60s to 80s, the gangs and Rocket¡¯s growing are representing the City of God¡¯s growing history. According to Urban Cinefile Critics, "A powerful and haunting film that explores the myriad of stories that lie deep within the slums of Rio, City Of God shocks, enlightens and above all affects us by taking us into a world where drugs and organised crime are a way of life."
As a Brazilian film, City of God got globe success at year 2002. It¡¯s highly stylistical and more concerned with action than with showing reality, and the 'film realism' and MTV-style editing pace and frantic camera work also helped it stands out from all the films made in 2002. "Rises so far above the conventions of genre and of most ordinary filmmaking that it's a transcendent experience? An exhilarating, two-feet-off-the-ground fireball of a movie." (Joshua Tanzer: 2003)
To find out what is the differences and why the differences can make City of God a classical film, we should discuss its making between Hollywood films.
For the Narrative and Directing, as a gang¡¯s film, City of God uses quite different way between Gangs in New York. A good example is the beginnings between both films. In Gangs in New York, it uses Hollywood style classical beginning, starts from 20 years¡¯s ago¡¯s famous New York slum: Five Points, the open fight between factions between two biggest gangs¡¯ forces. It is a grandiose beginning and with great camera work. A lot of long shot and wild shot showing the more than 100s of characters. But the City of God uses completely different way, by using its now-famous opening ¡®fleeing chicken¡¯, then Rokert has caught between two forces: a new gang lord Mane Galinha and his opponent, named Little Joe. Then after the 360 degree turn, story starts from other 20 years ago. the background changes and Rocket changes to a small boy, playing soccer with mates in the slum. To understand his story, he says, we have to go back to the beginning, when he and his friends formed the Tender Trio and began their lives of what some would call crime and others would call survival. Brent Simon says, "Directed in a sort of urban panoramic style, City of God is, much more than Gangs of New York, a telling and intelligent snapshot of clashing turf warfare and how it constrictively shapes and molds the urban underbelly of a city." (2003). So I think it is the wise part than Hollywood narrative style. City of God unravels as a flashback narrative told by Rocket, He recounts the lives of two gangsters from their beginnings as petty criminals sometime in the 60s to the apotheosis of the gun-machine nightmare of the late 70s/early 80s when Lil' Z¨¦ confronts a rival drug gang led by Carrot. But Gangs in New York uses the normal and standard story telling style. As Mark R Leeper studied, ¡®Tim Burton has been emblematic of what has been going wrong with popular films since Star Wars. Burton has a very strong visual sense, but a weak story-telling ability. His Batman had a beautiful vision of a dark and mordant Gotham City, but the story itself was weak and even then there were gaps in the telling. His earlier Beetlejuice had a less developed visual sense but even worse story-telling. One moment characters would find themselves floating around the room or compelled to sing calypso, and a moment later they would be apparently overlooking the incident.¡¯ (1996). so we can say, the national cinema has looser narrative, can make it more creativity.
Actors and Stars. Stars are still the key element in Hollywood films, because of the public culture require and the non-limitation allowance, Hollywood film does need big names for its film to ensure the box office. As we can see in Gangs in New York, Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz, all are top stars in the world. Any of their names can by the guarantee of box office. As the commerce film making world, Hollywood cinema can not put this element away. But as the world cinema, almost of them can not get better allowances than Hollywood, so the good way to save is choosing non-famous actors but who has good performance. As we can see in City of God, almost the as the child actors are favela streets in which the film is set, no one is from stage school or had experiences before. ¡®But the performances are astonishing as they are authentic, understandably¡¯ ( Martin Scribbs:2002). ¡®Meirelles and co-director Katia Lund worked for eight months prior to shooting, creating the various episodes through a series of improvisational workshops. The results are incredible ¨C one harrowing, brilliantly acted scene in particular involves a rising group of vicious child gangsters, who give one of their even younger victims the choice of being shot ¡°in the hand or in the foot¡± in one of the most disturbing scenes in recent years that Hollywood or Europe would shy away from. We¡¯re really not used to seeing children wielding guns as brutal killers and this film really hammers that home¡¯. In City of God, different actors are playing main characters, the non-experienced actors made great performance, Douglas Silva is arresting as the child villain Little Dice, whose cold-eyed acceptance of murder as a tool of self-progression is utterly convincing. Leandro Firmino de Hora also excels in the same character's adult role, with a performance that is spine-chillingly real in its lust for power and disregard for human life. The actors can act, despite the fact that basically all of them have no experience, as most of them are actual residents of the City Of God. This also adds to the realism of the film. Nobody really overacts or underacts. They all add to their character in their own way, which makes a film much real. City of God got success of the actor acting, also its represents the world cinema¡¯s standard and rules.
Also we can find a lot differences from Political issues, Ideolodgy and social issues between City of God and Hollywood films. The City of God is the area out of the law and political, the biggest drugs business leader is the law of this depraved area. Police corruption, drugs, violence and gang wars, everything is looks like evil, , small time robberies lead to savage murders, drugs, weapons, revenge and all-out war. And life has no value in and of itself in this world, killings are in every time and every where. The human cost of poverty cannot be ignored, as the incentive to join a gang in City of God is much like it is in every other city in the world: a sense of belonging, working up a hierarchy, loyalty, at least temporary protection and the opportunity to make more than anyone else in a neighborhood surviving on peanuts.(Anji Milanovic :2003). And the film¡¯s realism documentary style finally can give the answer of the reason of all evils here: the government¡¯s corruption and the high class disregard bottom class slum and their lives. So this is the different between City of God and the Gangs in New York: even both film have same level of violence, but In both films, there are really two cities: the city of the employed and secure in world¡¯s biggest city and during world¡¯s most powerful government¡¯s growing, who are served by law and municipal services, and the city of the castaways, whose alliances are born of opportunity and desperation. Those who live beneath rarely have their stories told. So Hollywood film always like to, put justice or national power to be the thematic story. But the national film likes City of God, are much daringly to use the reality style to disclose the dark side and corruptibility.
Lastly, the film City of God also excels in technical areas. Not only the great MTV style editing, but also the hand held camera movements and a lot more. Cesar Charlone's grainy, sun-drenched camerawork is reminiscent of 'Traffic', while Daniel Rezende's stunning, hyper-kinetic editing only occasionally distracts from the film's flow. We see a speeded-up history of an apartment that¡¯s used as a drug base, or a violent confrontation that explodes under the strobe-effects of a nightclub and really artistic freeze frame shots as the characters are introduced. .(Anji Milanovic :2003)
And another example is the beginning sequence, ¡®fleeing chicken¡¯, when Rokert has caught between two forces, The technique of that shot--the whirling camera, the flashback, the change in colors from the dark brightness of the slum to the dusty sunny browns of the soccer field--alert us to a movie that is visually alive and inventive as few films are.
Just like Gary Thompson wrote, ¡®"City of God" does not exploit or condescend, does not pump up its stories for contrived effect, does not contain silly and reassuring romantic sidebars, but simply looks, with a passionately knowing eye¡¯, at what it knows. And I think this is also why the national film can get big success and the different from Hollywood films. Directors Fernando Meirelles and K¨¢tia Lund somehow managed to convey in their movie the full strenght of the novel (written by Paulo Lins) on which "City of God" is based. This film is full of colour and energy, carrying the spectator at a dizzying pace through the twenty years it covers, never giving him time to get bored. As kind of opining, the film undeniably bloody and has some very violent scenes. But those kind of things can capture and show what realy happened and happing in Brazilian shantytown, and give audiences a totally different cinema experiences from Hollywood, a huge success not only for the box office but also for its artistic masterpiece. "Directed in a sort of urban panoramic style, City of God is, much more than Gangs of New York, a telling and intelligent snapshot of clashing turf warfare and how it constrictively shapes and molds the urban underbelly of a city."
-- Brent Simon, ENTERTAINMENT TODAY
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