Lecture & Film

Underground Brazil: sex, violence and the garbage aesthetics of 1970s filmmaking in São Paulo

Lilian M – Relatório confidencial

Stephanie Dennison

April 26, 2018 20:15 h

The decade of the 1970s produced one of the most buoyant periods in filmmaking in Brazil. After the commercial failure of the ‘art-house’ cinema novo movement of the 1960s, Brazilians once again began to frequent the cinemas, encouraged by cheaper cinema tickets, the State’s involvement in domestic film production and distribution, and by a certain mainstreaming of sex, typified by Bruno Barreto’s box-office record-breaking Dona Flor e Seus dois maridos (Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, 1976). But the impressive quantity of films being made and distributed in Brazil wasn’t down to State sponsorship alone, and nor were viewers drawn only to mainstream soft-core porn films: São Paulo’s red-light district, the Boca do Lixo (Mouth of Garbage) produced a large number of the films made in Brazil in the 1970s and 1980s, moving from soft-core, to violent erotic thrillers, to hard-core, within the space of around 10 years. Perhaps unsurprisingly, little academic attention has been paid to the film production in the Boca until relatively recently, with the noted exception of both the ‘lighter’ end of soft-core porn film market, the so-called pornochanchadas, which have become a staple on nostalgia-driven TV programming in Brazil, and the so-called udigrudi or underground film movement, made up of a group of film school graduates who turned to the Boca do Lixo both for work and for inspiration. Their films were often very violent, heavily censored, erotically charged, aesthetically experimental, in some cases highly politicised, and always subversive. Stephanie Dennison’s talk will concentrate on those underground films produced within the Boca do Lixo which sought a dialogue with the pornochanchada, including João Callegaro’s O pornógrafo (The Pornographer, 1970), Rogério Sganzerla’s A Mulher de Todos (Everybody’s Woman (1969), and Carlos Reichenbach’s Lilian M: relatório confidencial (Lilian M: Confidential Report, 1975). It considers the extent to which these underground filmmakers used both representations and discussions of sex and sexuality to challenge the ethos of the Brazilian dictatorship (1964-84).