To Die Like a Man

2009 [PORTUGUESE]

Drama / Music

0
IMDb Rating 6.3 10 1170

forest transsexual

Plot summary


Uploaded by: FREEMAN
September 03, 2022 at 12:29 PM

Top cast

Carloto Cotta as Carlos
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1.19 GB
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Portuguese 2.0
NR
24 fps
2 hr 13 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Chris Knipp 7 / 10

Dogs, aquariums, killer sons, druggie lovers, and a sex change

You can't help thinking there's a good movie here somewhere. But things get out of hand from the start. Two young soldiers on maneuvers in camouflage outfits have anal sex in the woods. It's too dark to see which is which, but shortly afterward one shoots the other dead, apparently in an extreme form of homosexual panic. That's before the opening titles. But it's a plot line that's largely dropped.

'To Die As a Man' ('Morrer Como Um Homem'), a film from Portugal, is a bizarre patchwork of scenes, some of which resort to spins or whiteouts or extreme blue or red filters, and it doesn't need to do all this, because its account of a would-be transsexual who lives with a young drug addict and shelters her assassin son is quite bizarre enough. And ought to be interesting. And as the drag queen, Tonia, Fernando Santos is watchable. But the 138-minute running time makes this quite another kind of drag. You could easily excise 30 or 40 minutes; but the story line would still ramble too much.

A drag queen who's getting too old and is asked to leave the show. Haven't we seen that before somewhere? That's Tonia. She has competition from a younger black performer, Jenny (Jenni La Rue). That sounds familiar too. The hesitating to get the sex change operation: done. The young druggie lover: done. The haughty ex-drag star met by chance who struts her stuff, reciting German poetry: done.

But despite the familiarity of themes, there's life here. Drag queens are so camera-ready. Rodrigues has a gift for odd or arresting moments, like the switch blade snapping into a transparent shower curtain, a chicken bone and a high-heeled shoe dropped into the aquarium, a man committing suicide on the beach seen only from behind. There is a welcome willingness to experiment and take risks. Despite the camera tricks being out-there campy, the visuals are generally very nice. Only the director keeps killing things by stopping the action for a lengthy song or musical number, or going off on some new tangent and losing the momentum. Or sinking into subject matter that seems too derivative.

I lied: the killer soldier theme isn't completely dropped. He lies waiting for Tonia in her house one night, and turns out to be her long-lost son Zé Maria (Chandra Malatitch). Tonia agrees to hide Zé Maria, who destroys her aquarium. But she's more interested in helping her young boyfriend Rosario (Alexander David, who's pretty convincing) stay off drugs. And more than that, she's interested in her little dog.

One or two moments that have nothing to do with AIDS, or Christianity, or sexuality, like the time when Tonia and Rosario wander in a woods and find wild forget-me-nots, seem more natural than anything else. It is possible to care about these people. And wish they were in a better movie.

This will play well to the some specialized LGBT cinema audiences. Jason Anderson of Eye Weekly speaks of "searing melodrama with great moments of formal audacity" and says that Rodrigues' "three features to date are throwbacks to a far more radical era for queer cinema and 'To Die Like a Man' is no less extraordinary than its predecessors." Shown (and seen by me) as a part of the main slate of the New York Film Festival 2009.

Reviewed by p-stepien 3 / 10

Plodding and pretentious

A middle-aged transvestite Tonia (Fernando Santos), who works as a prominent drag-queen diva in a Lisbon club, finds herself losing her professional footing, when a young black artist Jenny (Jenni La Rue) is quickly stealing her limelight. However, this ultimately falls secondary to her more personal issues of a youthful boyfriend Rosario (Alexander David), who is a drug addict, and her previously estranged son Zé Maria (Chandra Malatitch), who deserted the army after killing his lover in a frenzied loss of control. Despite the self-destructive tendencies of both her protégées, Tonia is never dissuaded to drop a lost cause, even though Rosario persistently pawns her belongings and Zé Maria remains overtly contemptuous for his parent.

João Pedro Rodrigues starts off with a bang: two soldiers in full camouflage engage into their carnal desires in the midst of a dense wood. Soon after they venture into a touch of voyeurism, observing a homosexual couple in their house, which in turn seems to trigger an intense rush of self-hate in one of the soldiers, who shoots his lover- comrade in arms. Portrayed with the use of some brave, if not always successfully framed, camera-work, "To Die Like a Man" starts off strongly, suggesting a power of themes to be harnessed. Soon after however focus shifts to Tonia, who in herself is a delight to view, but is pasted onto a jarring disfragmented story, which at times seems more interested in capturing eerie odd shots, then actually telling a story. Jumpy and unfocused the picture gives off a strikingly independent, almost unprofessional, vibe, that at times is shaken off when Rodrigues actually succeeds in capturing a cinema moment.

This is not helped by the often wooden support cast, who at times drops off into pointless banter, or ventures into singing in graveyards or reciting poetry (the only moments when the movie decides to stay still and deliberate with a given scene). Plodding on within its odd self- imposed chaos, characters fail to resonate, despite a solid performance by eye-catching Fernando Santos. The artistry involved does engage or something capture the imagination, but framed withing a fickle story it simply drags the promise away, letting the movie die with a whimper. Obviously a pretty divisive movie many viewers will find the audacity of some experiments profound and help gloss over the weaker spots, but my interest waned after tiresome ongoings and never came back into focus.

Reviewed by emvan 3 / 10

Maybe It's Me, But I Found This Completely Uninvolving

Well, my late uncle was the fabulous "Sylvia Sidney," long the preeminent drag performer in Boston. I was certainly predisposed to like this movie. It ended up being just the second critically-acclaimed movie I've ever given up on in my life (out of 1000+), and the first that I gave up on because I thought it wasn't good. (The other was "Russian Ark," an obviously brilliant film which I simply couldn't make any sense of because I knew nothing of Russian or art history.) Rodriguez has a knack for conceiving arresting images (the back of the DVD case has a few such stills), but I found his sense of where to put the camera absolutely alien; I kept on saying to myself "I would never frame this shot that way." To my eyes and brain, it had the look and rhythm of a student film.

I know others have praised the performances, but I found them flat nearly to the point of amateurishness. There's nothing to like about any of the characters in the first 45 minutes (as far as I got), and I ordinarily have no problem with that; if the actors can communicate the inner pain that drives them to be so difficult, I readily empathize (see my review of Greenberg). If the actors just seem to be stating their lines, that's another story.

It's a shame, because (as the other reviewer notes) there's a good film here waiting to get out. I could imagine watching the same narrative and being entranced, if it were well-acted and shot by a director with talent, oops, I mean whose cinematic style resonated with me. I honestly can't say for certain that Rodriguez is barely competent behind the camera (and with actors) and has been given enormous slack by the critical community because of his subject matter. It's possible that his aesthetic is simply opposite mine. But I will note then when I watch Godard or Ozu, whose styles don't mesh well with my brain, I'm still aware that they're freakin' good: they're just not to my taste.

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