By Rory L. Aronsky | February 9, 2006

Atansio doesn’t know why he’s thinking of his brother-in-law, Edmilson Andre, mowing the grounds at the Jockey Club horse track. The w***e he spent his last birthday with is also in his mind, though she’s an enigma too. That’s good for us as we are treated to deep, rich Brazilian cinematography by Rodrigo Monte and a wry tale by writer/director Anne Pinheiro Gumarães. Atansio’s small apartment, cigarette smoke blown at the ceiling which actually makes the ceiling look brighter, and his stroll through the city show him at odds with himself. Maybe he wants something from his brother-in-law. Money. He might see success in what Edmilson does there. There could be an opportunity there for him.

Gumarães doesn’t allow us to rest during “Desejo” and thankfully so. The race track looks too big for one person to mow, and Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” is ironically played on the soundtrack. Atansio keeps moving from thought to thought His job as the doorman at an apartment is a dead end, so maybe he wants a new life. There’s never major action in his life, and Guamarães highlights this in a scene where he alarms a stout gray-haired woman by playing to her fear in telling her that he’d rather fall back from shock than from a third story window. Upstairs, she shuts out the light from her windows out of fear of accidentally falling from the third story and lives happily with her parrot, among an insane number of plants. It looks like a new rainforest in there.

Gumarães is not into easy answers. To her, there are no easy answers when it comes to trying to figure someone out. If the study of a person is done right, then an audience keeps asking questions as they are watching. There is no idleness, even with a scene where Atansio goes to the corner bar for toast and coffee with lots of sugar. She is also fond of the ominiscent narrator from books, as the story of Atansio is told in voiceover, as he goes from place to place, with the voice following and announcing Atansio’s intentions. Wagner Moura, who plays Atansio, also has one of those conflicted faces. He looks leisurely and he could also be stupid, but he could also be shrewd and calculating. Atansio’s only true trait is his determination. The rest of this worthy journey is up to us.

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