Space and the Materiality of Death - on Mário Peixoto's Limite
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This chapter investigates an avant-garde film made by Brazilian director Mario Peixoto in 1930, somewhat of an anomaly, since it is one of only three films that could be labelled as having avant-gardistic intentions emerging from Brazil in the historical avant-garde period, and because it was the only film the director made. Furthermore, though having been voted one of the greatest Brazilian films of all time, it never entered commercial distribution, but was only screened sporadically, for instance in 1942, when a special screening was arranged for Orson Welles, who was in South America for the shooting of his unfinished film It’s all true, and for Maria Falconetti, lead actress of Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928). The film then disappeared altogether from the scene, believed lost by many, until 1972 when a restored version was re-released on the festival circuit. In consequence, there has been next to no academic debate surrounding this film until the publication of this critical volume. The chapter attempts a close formal and contextual analysis of Limite, identifying influences present of European avant-garde activities, of which Peixoto was keenly aware. It simultaneously contests, however, the classification of the film as an avant-garde work in the classical context due precisely to these influences: quite apart from its aforementioned relative isolation in the Brazilian scene and Peixoto’s mainly literary oeuvre, there are too many European influences taken from too varied an array of sources to allow the identification of a coherent aesthetic concept, such as one witnesses in Surrealist, Constructivist or indeed Expressionist film works of the era. The chapter concludes that avant-garde is perhaps too politically charged an art-historical term to apply to this film and, by implication, to Brazilian cinema of the 1920s and 1930s.
Ten Contemporary Views on Mário Peixoto's Limite, pp.87-104
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