The Brazilian films that have been seen in Europe, such as “City of God”, “Central Station”, “Pixote” and last year’s “Aquarius”, tend to deal with rather serious stories and being in a foreign language are usually categorised as “art movie” material.
“Bingo” however deals with the country’s popular culture, most particularly television in the eighties. And while it has its serious side it is also very entertaining.
The Bingo of the title is Augusto (Brichta), who longs for the spotlight once enjoyed by his mother Marta (Torre), a former stage and soap opera star. She has now fallen from fame; Augusto has never tasted it. He is scraping a living as a soft porn actor, supplemented with walk on television roles.
Then comes his big break when he is cast as Bingo, the clown on a daily children’s show. His irreverent and downright cheeky take on the role makes his director Lucia (Leal) very nervous, particularly as she has the American franchise owner of the character breathing down her neck. Augusto’s Bingo though becomes a big hit. There is however one drawback – the clause in his contract which forbids him to reveal his identity. So Bingo is a star but Augusto the actor is unacknowledged – a source of frustration not only to him and his mother but to his adored small son Gabriel (Martins), who is unable to boast about his father to his schoolmates.
The film’s depiction of Sao Paulo’s television world of soaps and entertainment shows, not dissimilar in many ways to that of Italy, Spain and Portugal of the same era, is very funny. So too are Augusto’s attempts to woo Lucia, a deeply religious young woman who disapproves of Augusto’s lifestyle. There is though a serious side to the film, which is based on a true life story. It is the classic theme of the man behind the mask, the sadness of the clown, as Augusto’s frustration leads him further into self destructive heavy drinking, cocaine consumption and womanising (hence the 15 certificate), which threaten to destroy not only his career but his relationships with Lucia and Gabriel.
Former film editor Rezende, making his feature film debut, handles both the comic and dramatic aspects of the story with skill and sensitivity, as does Brichta in the title role. “Bingo” may be in a foreign language but its story and characters have a universal appeal and this very entertaining film deserves to reach a much wider audience than the usual “art movie” one.