Mention avant-garde cinema of the late 1920s and early 30s and the same familiar titles always come up: THE ANDALUCIAN DOG (Luis Buñuel, 1929), THE BLOOD OF A POET (Jean Cocteau, 1929), BERLIN, SYMPHONY OF A GREAT CITY (Walter Ruttman, 1927), and MAN WITH A CAMERA (Dziga Vertov, 1929). But there is a rarely seen film from Brazil which should be added to that pantheon – LIMITE (1931), directed by 22-year-old Mário Peixoto. Inspired by the films, photographs, and art he experienced during two trips to Europe in the late 20s, the scion of a wealthy Rio de Janeiro family decided to make his own feature-length film. But it would not be a traditional narrative film with folkloric elements like others coming out of Brazil at the time. Instead, it would be a foray into non-linear, story-free, experimental cinema of images, moods, shadows and sunlight, reflections, and brief moments in the lives of two women and a man. Time would be fluid, as past and present dissolve into one another. Using a carefully planned scenario, replete with camera placement and movements, framing and lighting guidelines, Peixoto and his well trained cinematographer captured a series of images which would resonate with an audience, find a place in the deeper levels of consciousness, free of psychological or narrative import. The result is a film which can be “felt” as much as seen. Peixoto referred to LIMITE as a “tuning fork,” and we, the audience, would be the resonant strings vibrating in harmony – if we allow ourselves to let go of the analytical mind. One could say that LIMITE accomplishes what filmmaker/theorist Germaine Dulac had stated in 1927: “The ‘real’ filmmaker should divest cinema of all elements not particular to it, to seek its true essence in the consciousness of movement and visual rhythms.”
After its initial screenings in Brazil in 1931, the film disappeared for decades, only rarely being screened for visiting filmmakers, such as Orson Welles when he was in Brazil in 1942 working (from time to time) on his unfinished IT’S ALL TRUE. After many years, the negative of LIMITE was on the verge of disintegrating, but in 1978 two Brazilian archivists began a painstaking restoration project. Even then the new print was put back on the shelf until 1998 when a video was released by the Brazilian Ministry of Culture, with the assistance of filmmaker Walter Salles (CENTRAL STATION), who maintained the Mário Peixoto Archives. I bought a copy of the VHS tape in December 1999 when I was in Brazil for the Millennium celebrations. We will be watching a DVD transfer of that VHS unless the DVD I have ordered online proves to look better. Currently there is no other way to see this film, though there are reported plans by Martin Scorsese to release a 35mm restoration. – Chale Nafus
Further reading: Michael Korfmann, “On Brazilian Cinema: From Mário Peixoto’s Limite to Walter Salles,” Senses of Cinema 40
Wednesday June 29, 2011 at 7:00pm
AFS Screening Room (1901 E. 51st St - Use Gate 2, by the water tower)
$5 AFS members, $8 General Admission
Online registration closes at 3 PM on the day of show and the form will disappear. Remaining tickets are available at the theater.
Austin Film Society Members must be logged in to view free or discounted ticket options. Log in >>
Not a member? Join now!
Create a website account here and click on "New User Registration."
Questions? Check out Help or call our office at 512-322-0145.