We appear to be in the home stretch here. The pain is not as it once was, but it still means I can not type for longer than a few minutes without my wrist hurting or my fingers from going numb. So the dictated reviews and a ridiculous posting schedule continues on.
If you need to have a liver ultrasound you are not allowed to eat or drink in the 6 hours leading up to it. I mention this because I chose to watch Pink Flamingos as a way to suppress my appetite… and would you know it worked a treat. As films go it is pretty repulsive and yet I actually found myself wanting to finish this cavalcade of grotesqueness.
There is no doubt that, on the whole, this film is pretty entertaining… apart from the infamous scene were the chicken is killed in a crush fetish scene where I had to close my eyes and fast forward (… not sure if it’s any worse than the chickens being burnt alive in Brightness though). I will probably never watch this film again, but I think it’s a worthy inclusion to the 1001 list.
I mean, how many other films are there that make bad taste work? It’s one of the few times where awful acting actually works for the style. It’s just so over the top where there are parts you cannot help but laugh, especially when Cotton gleefully says ‘what a day for an execution’.
It is disgusting, but I’m glad to have seen it. It definitely worked as an appetite suppressant.
From the profane to the sacred is the only way I can describe going from Pink Flamingos to O Pagador de Promessas. This film has gone under a number of translated names such as ‘The Given Word’ and ‘The Keeper of Promises’, so I’ll stick with the original title in Portuguese.
The film begins with an explaination of the conflict between the Catholic church and the ‘pagan customs’ of those with African ancestry. It’s one of those things that is easy to discount as you start the film, but so much of how you understand the unfolding events relies on you keeping this schism in mind.
The thing is, Ze has no interest in any of this. He is the moral core of this film and is, above all, a good man who stays true to his word and beliefs. He finds himself in this situation after making a promise to save the life of his best friend… who happens to be a donkey. Weird? Yes it is, but that’s small potatos.
In order to fulfil his promise Ze has to travel 7 km with a cross on his back to the alter of the church of Saint Barbara. However, he made this promise to Yansan, an African goddess of the wind, who corresponds to the Catholic Saint Barbara. For this reason the priest refuses to allow Ze into the church and condemns him as a demon who wishes to mock Christ.
The situation spirals out of control when a local reporter uses this story to advance his own career. Instead of telling a true story he paints Ze as an extremist and a reformist rather than a faithful man trying to keep his promise to Saint Barbara. Everyone in the city seems to turn up to try and use Ze’s actions for their own means. Some see him as a new Christ figure (including a mother who wants him to heal her dying baby), others as a voice for their maligned section of society and then there are those who see him as an opportunity for a quick buck.
Where everyone sees him as an opportunity for self-advancement Ze views this all as a temptation set out by Saint Barbara in order to show that he will fulfil his promise. At any point he can end this by walking away. Similarly, the priest could end this at any point by allowing Ze enter. Tensions fly, threats are made and two entire communities clash over a man who just wanted to save his donkey.
There are few films that so effectively demonstrate the ability for people to twist the actions of a good man in order to suit their own agenda. Both mankind and religion are held on trial in how they treat Ze. It’s little wonder his best friend is a donkey.