Os Sete Gatinhos (Neville De Almeida / Brazil, 1980):

The merciless qualities of Nelson Rodrigues' play, held under a magnifying glass for a most ferocious satire of the sexploitation pablum that flowered under the country's military oppression. Brazil here is a middle-class household turned brothel as surely as England was a cavernous mansion made into a dungeon in The Servant; Pinter (in the Losey films, and in A Slight Ache) is an elucidative point, the Larry Cohen of Bone is a close American variant, but this really must be seen from the vantage point of a decade's worth of salacious-populist farces pushed past the palliative and into the excoriating. The wrathful Rodrigues joke (in addition to the surrealism that lends the title a surface prurience) is the family structure torn asunder by a country's deranged and hypocritical exaltation of purity, piled so high that a ruptured hymen sends it crumbling. The pious patriarch (Lima Duarte) is a failed tyrant, his daughters don't even bother to wear clothes during his orations on the need for decency, his wife (Telma Reston) draws winged genitalia on the bathroom wall as onanistic visual aid. The clan's last grab for redemption hinges on the virginity of the youngest daughter (Christina Aché); when she comes home defiled, the father gleefully dives into sleaze and about ten years of dirty laundry tumble out at once. All of this is steered by Neville de Almeida as a sex romp accelerating into a horror movie, going from the skit-like raunchiness of the opening (the pantomime of Sonia Dias on the phone, negotiating the old lecher's groping as if shooing away a pesky fly) to the suffocatingly stretched takes of familial decay. Explicitly intended as a necessary act of disrespect -- to national cinema (Antonio das Mortes himself, Maurício do Valle, is seen on all fours chewing Regina Casé's panties), paternal reverence (the climactic tableau is profane, cannibalistic, and liberating), and to dirty-minded pricks who paid for thrills and instead got scalded by a scabrous mirror. With Antônio Fagundes, Ana Maria Magalhães, Cláudio Corrêa e Castro, Sura Berditchevsky and Ary Fontoura.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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