Gabriela, Cravo e Canela (1983)

“Gabriela, Cravo e Canela” (1983)



tropical intellectual swing

This was celebrated in its day. Probably most of it had to do with Sónia Braga being here.

In fact we have a combination that make the thing worthwhile: Tom Jobim and Jorge Amado. They are part of a recent creative Brazilian tradition, which consists in throwing interesting concepts into popular forms, things that people can recognize and identify to, as “pop” but which in fact is the work of intellectual creative minds. That’s why we have “música popular brasileira” (brazilian ‘pop’ music), which contains bossa nova, which is in fact a branch fully developed by intellectual minds, with empathy for popular expressions. Jorge Amado does a similar thing with literature. He writes material that is soap-operish (and in fact was and is fully adapted into TV minor things)but at the same time works words and builds his own language, which flows on your ears as fluid as bossa nova (even if you don’t understand Portuguese, try and hear it, you’ll get what i mean).

These ability to be deep and popular at the same time is the biggest quality of Jobim and Amado, to me. The problem is that these minds can very easily be misunderstood, and taken for granted in what they mean, if the minds that interpret them and thin. So i admire this film, because people in it understood this. Not that this is fully achieved, on any matter. Sometimes it sounds half-baked, and the kind of explicit sexuality with no explicit sex it tries to depict is something so much explored in the last 25 years that this sounds very dated now.

Also, i don’t think Braga would explode now as she did than, sexual conceptions for the Latin woman (preconcepcions)have evolved to someone who is both sensual and intellectual (Alice Braga, Sónia’s niece is probably a good example). Sónia plays a rural type, she’s spontaneous, has unshaved underarms, she’s illiterate, she exists in the film for the sexual frictions and tensions she causes.

Well, sex is the core of Amado’s writing. He chooses a close conservative environment, a kind of social still water, and throws a stone into that water (Braga). So she, through unconscious sensuality, commands the game, and moves the plot. Since they wanted to explore Sonia’s effect in those days public, this is a terribly effective device (something like what is happening in a domestic scale with Soraia Chaves, in Portugal these days).

Complaints: Barreto has a good cinematic eye, and he works visually his shots and i appreciate that, but he was not sure whether he wanted to make a film about Sonia Braga and what moves around her or a film about a sensual woman in a closed village. I think he tried to mix both, and that’s the failure. I’ll get to his “Dona Flor…”, same context, Amado and Braga as well, and see what he did there. Also, they avoided trying to explain why Gabriela, being so much in love, would screw another man, mostly being Mastroianni’s best friend. We have a small clue, but it’s not conclusive. It’s ‘just’ a plot hole and i don’t value that usually, but here it felt bad, it was important the insight on Gabriela.

A side note: i have a special interest in Portuguese colonial urbanism. I’m actually working right now on a final thesis on one of those cities, one of the best (ilha de Moçambique). This little city depicted (Parati, not Ilhéus) looks a good example as well, which apparently was heavily influenced by masonry in its conception. Watch the film on that matter alone, if you’re interested in the theme. Some shots are really worth it.

My opinion: 3/5

This comment on IMDb


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