Streaming: is the Brazilian film Araby the movie of the decade? – The Guardian

A low-budget road movie that’s been wowing critics for two years finally makes its UK debut, thanks to Mubi
I was late getting to this week’s selected film – though not as late as film distributors in the UK: it has never been picked up for a cinema or even a DVD release. For more than two years, respected colleagues have been talking up the merits of Araby, a tiny but mighty fiction debut by Brazilian film-makers João Dumans and Affonso Uchoa. The Hollywood Reporter critic Neil Young has gone so far as to declare it the best film of this fast-closing decade. Having missed it on its year-long festival run in 2017, I waited for a chance to see it on a big screen.
That chance hasn’t come, but Mubi has, as it so often does, stepped into the breach. Araby is available to stream on their curated menu until mid-September; you’d do well to take the chance while it’s there. The film is, as promised, something very special: a careworn, will-o’-the-wisp road movie, contained within a memory that may or may not be imagined. Dumans and Uchoa have a documentary background that’s evident in their calm, clear-eyed portrait of a hard-knock life in permanent flux. Yet there’s a glimmering, uncertain magic to it too. It’s a film preoccupied with the way we fashion our lives into storytelling.
You have to approach it with some patience. The first 20 minutes or so promise a more austere exercise in grainy realism than the poetic picaresque we eventually get, but the tonal contrast eventually pays off as the film considers the virtues of restless movement versus stasis. We’re introduced to Andre (Murilo Caliari), a shy, bored teenager abandoned by his parents in a dead-end Brazilian factory town, and Cristiano (Aristides de Sousa), the diminutive itinerant labourer whose path he crosses. Sent on an errand to Cristiano’s quarters, Andre stumbles across his tatty, handwritten memoirs – and the film in turn shifts into the notebook’s more mythic, freewheeling narrative, documenting the seemingly unremarkable worker’s travels and travails over the course of a decade.
It’s a cross-country, blue-collar odyssey taking in criminal and romantic escapades, stopping off in prisons, brothels and assorted dusty towns – building into a patchwork of struggling, ever-changing Brazilian society, alive with pointed working-class politics. Cristiano is a drifter, but not driven by wanderlust: it’s hard-scrabble economic reality that blows him from place to place. Scored to a gorgeous, handpicked playlist of folk and country cuts that lend unsentimental grace to our hero’s ramblings, Araby has the heft and expanse of epic film-making, yet feels as intimate and fragile as a stranger’s barroom anecdote.
While you’re in a wistful arthouse reverie, you have a week left to catch some highlights from the recent Locarno film festival, which wrapped last week. A few selections from this year’s programme are streaming for free on FestivalScope until the end of August. You only need an hour, for example, to fit in a viewing of the lovely Swiss semi-documentary Bird Island, a subtly dreamy study of an avian sanctuary in Geneva that offers as much healing to the wounded people who enter it as it does their feathered friends. Wilcox, meanwhile, is a moving character study of an isolated survivalist, stripped of dialogue and affectation, that marks a bracing change of pace for the usually more mannered Quebecois auteur Denis Côté. Finally, The Prince’s Voyage, the latest finely drawn feature from veteran French animator Jean-François Laguionie, is a thing of melancholic, watercoloured beauty. Chronicling a lost monkey-prince’s journey to self-realisation, it’s part fairytale, part philosophical allegory, and rather more like Araby than you might think.
(Universal, 15)
If a cold-eyed, Chanel-clad Isabelle Huppert terrorising Chloë Grace Moretz sounds like a good time to you, Neil Jordan’s deliciously ludicrous stalker thriller will fulfil all its high-camp promise.
In Fabric
(Curzon Artificial Eye, 18)
Peter Strickland’s 70s-accented art-horror farce about a haunted dress feels a bit ragged structurally – where’s the third part? – but it’s a vision as ravishing as it is eccentric.
The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith
(Eureka, 18)
A sharp Blu-ray restoration of Fred Schepisi’s still-ferocious Australian cinema landmark from 1978, following an indigenous farmhand’s violent revenge mission against his oppressors in the early 20th century.


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