If Martin Scorsese directed a film about a children’s entertainer it might look something like Brazilian biopic ‘Bingo’, inspired by the life of the country’s most famous TV clown, Arlindo Barreto (renamed Augusto, presumably to avoid legal headaches). As a rise-and-cocaine-fuelled-fall story, this is enjoyably watchable if a tad formulaic, kept alive by a boisterous and deeply sympathetic lead performance by Vladimir Brichta.
He plays Augusto, a softcore porn star in the 1980s attempting to break into soaps, but failing since his ego can’t handle playing second fiddle to big-name actors. Then one day, Augusto accidentally walks into an audition for a clown on a new kids’ TV programme and is reborn as Bingo. The show is a ratings hit, but Augusto can’t give up the perks of the porn world – drugs and sex.
What follows is a slightly generic biopic treatment, but director Daniel Rezende captures the feel of the era, assisted by a jukebox soundtrack featuring Echo & the Bunnymen and Devo. And there’s a terrific Scorsese-esque moment when Bingo, on a sweaty coke high, has a meltdown on live on TV, blood trickling from his nose. I struggled with the casually misogynist banter, which, yes, I’m sure went with the territory in TV in the ’80s. And if Pennywise from ‘It’ has left you feeling a teensy bit fragile around clowns, it’s probably best to avoid altogether.