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"Alice's House" is an extraordinary Brazilian film brilliantly conceived
by Erik Sean McGiven on Jan 25, 2008
House" is an extraordinary Brazilian film brilliantly conceived and well
worth seeing. This kitchen drama is a
refreshing naturalistic look at an urban middle-class Sao
Paulo family, one that is thrown into turmoil by
sexual and emotional betrayal. The
ever-resonating Carla Ribas
in the title role takes us on an arduous journey where she is repeatedly
rebuffed as she searches for liberation and romance.
<>The story revolves around forty something Alice
who works as a manicurist in a beauty salon and shares an apartment on the
outskirts of the city with her mother, Dona Jacira, her husband, Lindomar, a
taxi-driver, and their three sons, Lucas,
Edinho, and Junior. The film is
basically about a woman's everyday life in which she alludes herself and makes
the same mistakes repeatedly. With its
small actions, intimate internalizations, and daily frustrations, nothing is
safe in this emotional emptiness. It's a
fragile family, one that could deteriorate and break up at any moment.
At home the men pay little attention to Alice
while at work she lives an engaging life. The warm environment of the beauty
parlor offers hope while her cramped apartment life stifles it with
narcissistic indifference. With
co-workers and customers she can tell jokes, have after-work drinks and
commiserate about wanting something better.
Everyone in Alice's
world has a secret: her husband has developed a passion for underage girls; one
of her sons is a gay hustler, another is a petty thief, and the youngest is
tormented by his sexual awakenings, while her old mother is slowly going blind. Even her clients have secrets and soon Alice
succumbs to the same sexual intrigue and deception, and develops a secret life
of her own.
Teixeira creates a highly detailed world for these characters both in emotions
and their physical environment. By the end of the film one can not only
cramped apartment but also the wants and desires of each and every
character. The film also provides a look
unpretentious culture and its casual approach to sex, at least among the middle
class. Sex, love, romance are the forces
in this story and even the grandmother finds comfort in the voice of a radio
talk show host. Her quest is to be a
winner on his call-in show.
Navigating this story may take some effort, as there is no
music to lead you though its sensibilities.
Thus the judgements you arrive at are likely to be your own. This makes the acting of Carla
Ribas in the lead role even more
remarkable. Her range depicts a myriad
of emotions that propels the story through its dramatic entanglements and their
harsh consequences. Teixeira uses
silence to focus on this inner turmoil.
There is one scene where Alice
can't sleep and goes out on the balcony to settle her nerves. Her mother comes out and stands by her side
never speaking yet relating. It's a
poignant scene where the mother, though going blind, ironically sees and feels
everything that her daughter endures.
And by being just there, that's enough.
On shooting without using dialogue the director said,
"I found out that the body speaks for itself, like a dance. I learned that bodies speak a lot."
Produced with limited resources "Alice's
House" is extraordinary film, one that is unique and inventive in many
ways. It addresses a variety of
deceptions along with the tragedy of a woman tied down to family yet longs to
be liberated from the boredom and monotony in her life. And in spite of the ordeals she faces, she
has the optimism and resiliency to make us root for her happiness. The hand-held camera gracefully finds those
moments of realization, reflection, and hope contrasted with pain.
is a stage actress who took up acting at age 35 and won the role on the
recommendations of famed drama coach and casting director Fatima
It is Carla's first feature film role,
one that has already given her numerous awards plus industry-wide
recognition. The excellent ensemble cast
is also right on target. Prior to
production they worked together for three months under the tutorage of Fatima
The actors never saw the script but instead took their lines from Fatima's
A celebrated documentary filmmaker Tico
Teixeira is lauded for his ability to get
his subjects to open up about their innermost feelings. This experience is most evident in "Alice's
House," his award-winning first feature, an extraordinary insightful film
that is well worth seeing.
CREDITS: Directed by Chico Teixeira "Alice's
House" stars Carla Ribas,
and Mariana Leighton. Screenplay by Chico
Teixeira, Julio Pessoa,
and Marcelo Gomes. Director of Photography; Mauro
September 22, 2019