IN THE YEAR when Stephen King’s It came out, I was a bit apprehensive about going to watch another film about a clown. One clown is too many for a year.
However, I went into the classy Charlotte Street Hotel underground theatre with some hope that Daniel Rezende, the director of the film, may have something good in stock. Rezende is the BAFTA winning editor of City of God, and Bingo – The King of the Mornings was about to be his directorial debut.
The film tells the real life story of Augusto Mendes (Vladimir Brichta), who hosted the 1980s Brazilian children’s morning television show as the eponymous Bingo the clown. It charts his struggle to go from a low-time porn actor to making his mark with his own show – a struggle not only to get his first big break, but also of dealing with the anonymity that is enforced by his contract to play the famous clown.
It is a great human story. However, a story is only as good as the person telling it – and in that respect I think Daniel Rezende stands out. The story is very intricately threaded together in a way that makes the narrative flow with a rare coherence and spirit – particularly notable given that the story arches across a number of years.
The 1980s’ colourful pop palette is expertly peppered with scenes of sombre grey that accentuate the impact of every frame in the film. The cinematography is top-notch – and there are no gimmicky shots that you sometimes find lesser hands experimenting with.
I was most impressed with the tone of the film. To appreciate this, you have to understand the context of the film. Set in the 1980s Brazilian TV industry, the atmosphere is at once a colourful, cocaine-strewn, neon party and also a harsh, unsympathetic world, overhung by personal tragedy.
Despite having many excellent comedic moments interspersed with several serious dramatic scenes, I never felt that the juxtaposition was ever off. This was, however, not only due to expert direction and editing, but also in big part owing to the superb acting by the cast. Vladimir Brichta’s portrayal of Bingo is a tour de force and ought to be recognised internationally. The rest of the cast also provide stellar performances that add to the energy of the film.
More than once the film reminded me of City of God, and that may not be a coincidence given it is directed by one of that film’s core team members. Comparisons by some critics between the two films are very well justified.
I’m also not surprised that Brazil has chosen Bingo as its nominee for the Foreign-language category at the Oscars. In the days when Hollywood directors are overpaid and over-hired *cough* DCEU directors *cough* this film is a resounding demonstration of how to tell a story well. It should be on the to-watch list of all film lovers.