Rocket: What should have been swift revenge turned into an all out war. The City of God was divided. You couldn’t go from one section the other, not even to visit a relative. The cops considered anyone living in the slum a hoodlum. People got used to living in Vietnam, and more and more volunteers signed up to die.
In addition to the filmmakers, I have Bryan to thank for this film. If he hadn’t pitched me with something to the effect of: “It’s like Goodfellas, but Brazilian and with kids,” I might not have discovered this amazing film. And considering that The Departed was the last film on this list, I think it’s fitting that Scorsese’s film is followed by this Brazilian homage, of sorts.
When I think of City of God, the phrase “web of intrigue” comes to mind. There’s just so much going on, so many stories, so many characters, and somehow it all makes sense. A story that could very easily become a convoluted mess in the hands of lesser filmmakers comes off amazingly simple. And I’m not even going to attempt to give a synopsis of this film, suffice to say, it’s a story of two boys growing up in the violent slums of Rio de Janeiro, one embraces the violence and one tries to escape it… but it’s so much more than that, part gangster film, part coming-of-age drama, part revenge film…
It’s a brilliant Brazilian pastiche. That stays true to itself and the genre, not by trying to be groundbreaking or change the rules of the gangster film, but merely by being… by offering a glimpse of life in the City of God… by showing us the same thing, only different. Meirelles and Lund don’t lionize what makes this story different, but instead show us how such a familiar problem (organized crime) plagues an unfamiliar culture, concentrating on mirroring the universal human experience to pull us into a unique world. Robert McKee would be proud.