Review of Eva Paulino Bueno, O Artista do Povo: Mazzaropi e Jeca Tatu no cinema do Brasil. Maringá: Editora da Universidade Estadual de Maringá, 1999.

Darién J. Davis

Middlebury College

Brazilian cinema constitutes an important if not vital aspect of Brazilian cultural production in the twentieth century. While quality television programmes often overshadow Brazilian cinema's importance, Brazil's cinematographic industry is arguably the strongest in Latin America, with substantial amount of investment from state and private enterprises.

In the 1940s, film entrepreneurs created Cinédia and Vera Cruz, modeled after MGM in Hollywood. Based on Hollywood genres, but lacking the Hollywood distribution apparatus, these companies soon fell into bankruptcy. The 1950s saw the emergence of a new cinema movement, cinema novo, which was interested in film with social relevance at a time when Brazil was experiencing rapid economic expansion lead by President Juscelino Kubitschek (1955-1960). In search of national roots, many of these films looked at the ethnic and social groups often denied visibility in the official history. Films of the popular sectors such as Glauba Rocha's Black God White Devil (1964), Anselmo Duarte's The Given Word, and Nelson Perreira dos Santos' Barren Lives (1963), stimulated national introspection and received widespread international attention. In 1969, the state created the first government film agency, EmbraFilm which was responsible for financing, distributing and promoting many more national films, comedies and Brazilian dramas throughout the Brazilian territory. EmbraFilm made it increasingly difficult for foreign films to be shown in movie houses, while requiring that Brazilian films, not always of good quality, be shown. Thus by the 1970s, Brazil was producing many films from serious social dramas to comedies, musicals and pornography.

Despite the diversity of Brazil's cinematic production, scholars have tended to focus on Brazil's most acclaimed international stars whether it was Carmen Miranda in the 1930s or the more politically sensitive actors and film makers of cinema novo. Eva Paulino Bueno's work, O Artista do Povo: Mazzaropi e Jeca Tatu no cinema do Brasil aims to shift that focus by examining an important local actor and film maker, who in many respects was no less witty and charismatic than Carmen Miranda while being as politically sensitive as the film makers of cinema novo. This was Mácio Mazzaropi (1927-1981).

An actor, director, and producer of films, Mazzaropi's career began in the 1950s and he remained active until his death in 1981. As Bueno herself put it Mazzaropi was an idiosyncratic artist and an astute businessman whose work, though uneven and varied, had an enormous impact on Brazilian audiences for almost three decades. But this work is not a biography. Bueno attempts to give reader's an understanding of Mazzaropi's work, although she never quite gives us much information about Mazzaropi the man. She provides insightful analysis of the films which he directed and in which he appeared
but we get very little behind the scenes commentary. Thus the strength of this book lies in the analysis of the content of films rather than in its assessment of the production or reception of the film by Brazilian audiences.

In chapter one, "As Aventuras de Jeca Tatu: Classe, Cultura e Nação", Bueno places Mazzaropi into his proper historical context and introduces the reader to Mazzaropi's most celebrated screen character: the capaira Jeca Tatu. Bueno's placement of Mazzaropi's films is limited to film history, however, as the author does not discuss the broader context of Brazilian cultural history. The author treats Mazzaropi's artistic development while contrasting his work to the major films of cinema novo rather than accentuating the larger political or cultural occurrences under President Kubischek in Brazil in the 1950s, and the many points and counterpoints of Brazil's cultural production. Bueno's decision to limit her focus is understandable given the enormity of such a task, although one wonders if there were other film makers or artists like Mazzaropi or any major influences on his artistic vision which would be worthy of note. According to Bueno, Mazzaropi's films can be divided into phases, but Bueno does not present a systematic vision of these phases or what informed them. It was in the very first phase, however, when Mazzaropi developed as an actor that he became associated with the figure of the capaira.

Following the introduction, each chapter examines specific films through major themes which help us understand and place Mazzaropi's films into ideological perspective. Chapter two, for example, examines the films made before 1958 in which Mazzaropi played the principal actor although the films were directed by a number of different directors. According to Bueno, films such as Sai da frente (1951), Nadando en dinheiro (1952), A carrochina (1955), among others, comprise a group of films that treat the conflict of 'opposing realities' such as the animal world and the mechanical, the rural and the urban or the masculine and the feminine (p. 33). They are also films about the universal theme of metamorphosis and change. While Bueno provides enlightening and interesting analysis of all of the films in this phase it is unclear how the author envisions these productions as Mazzoropi's films since Mazzaropi worked under many different directors. What role did Mazzaropi play in shaping the film's vision? What was his relationship to the directors? These questions are never posed. If it is true, as Bueno asserts, that the first films present the conflicts of Brazil, to what extent is Mazzaropi responsible for how the films "contam a história dificil e complexa do homen que tenta enfrentar as mudanças que não sabe sondar, os desejos que não compreende, as deferenças que não pode penetrate." ? (p.69)

In chapter three, Bueno attempts the complex analysis of language, race and origin in another group of films, many of them treated in the chapter two. Bueno approaches these film with little reliance on current anthropological definitions of identity or with any eye to identify politics. She explains (p. 78) that she is interested in the inter-textuality and the dialogue among films which Mazarropi seemed to have been constructing. Yet it is precisely for this reason that a clear theoretical approach might have been warranted. In the description of Meu Japão brasileiro the politics of identity and racial and national identification is far from clear, for example. Are the "japoneses" to which she refers from Japan or born in Brazil ? The same question might be inverted for the "jovem filha de japoneses" with whom Mario, the son of the local priest, has fallen in love. Similar issues arise in the description of O fuzileiro do amor (1955). The irony of a non-black director ridiculing the racism of blacks who denigrate their own race needs to be developed. How are readers to understand the complexity of 'black face,' in the context of Brazil a country made up of a majority or near majority of Afro-Brazilians ? And why does the black man in 'black face' necessarily "lean toward the white side" in this particular film? Similar issues arise in Bueno's analysis of race and identity in Jeca e seu filho preto, a film analyzed later in the chapter. Moreover statements such as "Angela Maria é percibida como mulata" needs to be further explained. By whom? What does this mean?. What are the nuances and implications of a entertainment star being "perceived as a mulatta"? Bueno's description of the historical problem of racism in Brazil could be better elaborated.

The use of language as a marker of race rather than ethnicity in Chico fumaça (1956) also warrants critical attention. In her analysis of the dialogue among Brazilian films, Bueno often approaches these films uncritically as her assessment of Cacá Diegues' Quilombo illustrates. That she believes that "a linguagem e não a raça determina a diferença" seems only to touch the tip of the iceberg, although this might also be a problem of Cacá Diegues own vision.

In the last three chapters, Bueno exposes a number of important themes in Mazzaropi's oeuvre including his treatment of history and his criticism of Brazilian society, his views on religion and spirituality, and issues related to what Bueno calls issues of "gender and the cosmic body," principally in the discourse between the female and the male. Although Bueno notes in chapter four that Mazzaropi's vision comes from the perspective of a white man, she insists that race is not a major factor since the vision comes from a poor white man who "participa de muitos dos problemas dos escravos". While this might be true, readers would benefit from a more subtle presentation of the inter-connection of race and class in Brazil. Despite the similar position in which poor whites and blacks occupy in Brazilian society, 'whiteness' denotes privilege. Moreover, it is important to understand where the capaira sits in the complex social hierarchy of modern Brazil.

At times, Bueno offers new and interesting insights into many of Mazzaropi's films. The analysis of Candinho, for example, is both indepth and novel, as are many of her views on other films. In other cases, however, historical information about given themes treated in the films would have helped in the analysis. Such is the case of O corinthiano, which deals with the subject of football.

Chapters five and six follow a similar pattern of the previous chapters, as Bueno elucidates and explains given themes that appear in Mazzaropi's films. Missing, however, is a concluding chapter or epilogue which would serve as a forum to bring all of the major themes together and to allow the author to provide readers with a much more complete vision of Mazzaropi's oeuvre. Without it the book feels like a series of related essays. Still, this is an important undertaking which highlights a filmmaker and actor often missing from many books on Brazilian and culture. Bueno's style is clear and direct. The strength of this book is in its literary analysis and its dialogue with other works on Brazilian film.