Veteran director Ruy Guerra has directed Brazil's first musical - a handsome, large budget production freely adapted from Brecht's Threepenny Opera, crossed with splashings of Busby Berkeley and Vincente Minnelli. Guerra's film is set among the 'malandro' of Rio de Janeiro in 1941 - a collection of pimps, thieves, smugglers and hustlers who appear unmoved by Brazil's support for German and Italian fascist designs on Europe. But when the Japanese attack Pearl Harbour, Max (Edson Celulari) and his fellow 'malandro', long time fans of American film and music, orchestrate a raid on a cabaret owned by the ruthless Otto Studell (Fabio Sabag), owner of the city's nightclubs and brothels. Otto responds by firing Max's current girlfriend, the dance hostess Margot (Elba Ramalho). Max then connives at the ultimate revenge: the seduction of Strudell's daughter, Ludmila. He persuades her to obtain a cheque made out in her father's name. The fraud is discovered, but Max has fallen in love with Ludmila.
Ruy Guerra (director, actor, writer and musician), is known as one of the maior figures in the Cinema Novo movement in Brazil. Using catchy and evocative Latin music by Chico Buarque, Guerra directs with gliding camera movements, superbly stylised sets, radiant colours and scores of tango-dancing extras.