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Brazil, 1953 (MIFF 1956, Programme 3)

Director: Limo Barreto

The Bandit is the first Brazilian film to be shown in Australia. In 1953 it was awarded the prize for "films of adventure" at the Cannes Festival, being described as a "tragic-love story, played out in an atmosphere of looting, torture and assassination," thus living up to the traditional impression one has of the Latin-American republics.

Despite this, the film has been described by an eminent critic (C. A. Lejune) as a "rarity, a work of power, beauty and distinction.” The photography is noteworthy and the music has gained special mention for Migliori.

The film opens with a long file of horsemen against the sky. Suddenly, they descend on a village committing wholesale pillage and rapine. Swaggering, scruffy, loving cruelty and a joke, they lord it over the universe.

Their general (one could hardly call him anything else) seizes the school mistress Olivia. With the help of Theodora, she escapes. The two are tracked down finally by Galdino's men. Olivia escapes, but Theodora surrenders and is given, by Galdino, a chance to escape. He has to walk from a tree a thousand yards distant; when he starts walking, the bandits will open fire, each being allowed one bullet. If he escapes he can go free...

The story of The Banditis harsh and there is probably too much reliance on pictorial effects, but the achievement of the film is to take us into the nomad life of these outlaws. The bandits are real, “they and death are familiar,” and even if their three-cornered hats seem theatrical and they tend rather too readily to burst into song, they have nothing in common with the outlaws of musical comedy.

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