Paris Square | Praça Paris (2017) ** | Rio Film Festival

March 9th, 2018
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Lucia Murat; Cast: Grace Passo, Joana de Verona, Alex Brasil, Digao Ribeiro; Portugal/Argentina/Brazil 2017, 110 min.

Director/co-writer Lucia Murat (Another Love Story) has made her name as a documentary filmmaker so it comes as no surprise that her observations about class, gender and education in contemporary Rio de Janeiro are by far the strongest part of this feature. When it comes to story telling, Praca, Paris somehow lacks the same conviction. The film follows Gloria who has arrived in Rio to study the effects of violence on the local community, and hoping to work through her troubled past growing up in a favela. She consults Camila (de Verona), a young psychotherapist writing her MA thesis, as a patient and case-study subject. But the doctor-patient relationship soon comes under strain as social tensions rise to the surface and power dynamics shift in a high-stakes mind game. At the beginning, it is Gloria, who does not open up to Camila, but slowly the dynamics change: when Camila learns more and more about Gloria’s traumatic childhood, it is she who withdraws. Gloria is financing her stay by working as a lift operator in the university building, but it soon emerges that she killed her father after enduring years of sexual abuse on his part, and that the family has kept his death a secret. The most influential character here is her brother Jonas (Brasil) who is serving time on drug related charges, and still has an enormous influence on the criminal scene, even from behind bars. When Gloria’s boyfriend Samuel (Ribeiro)  tries to resolve her conflict with Camila, violence again erupts.

This rather enigmatic psychological drama takes its name from one of Rio’s great meeting places and DoP Guillermo Nieto uses great sensibility in contrasting the beauty of the park and the tranquillity of the university buildings with the jungle of the Favelas. There is no attempt to gloss over the abject poverty, or the lawlessness by men like Jonas, who use women to make a living. It’s a shame therefore that the narrative lacks the necessary vigour to support the tragic contradictions of this social reality. AS

PRACA, PARIS won Best Actress (Grace Passo) | Best Director at Rio Film Festival and is looking for distribution in the UK. 

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