Bingo: O Rei das Manhãs (Bingo: The King of the Mornings) is a powerhouse of a film, not only due to the stunning visual manoeuvers but also due to the charisma and likeability of Vladimir Brichta in the lead role as Augusto Mendes/Bingo the Clown. Brazilian first-time director Daniel Rezende, the acclaimed editor behind Cidade de Deus (City of God) and The Tree of Life, clearly knew what he was doing when he cast Brichta. Mendes’s energy is potent and electric. It’s a shame that the same can’t be said for Soren Hellerup as bigshot US TV producer Peter Olsen. His Danish accent is just too distracting. Good thing he’s not on screen for too long.
A news report on an old television set helps to introduce the intrigue behind Bingo. A glimpse of Augusto playing with his son Gabriel (Cauã Martins) – while he’s waiting between takes of his porn scenes – establishes their close-knit relationship. This father-son dynamic starts out quite strong but wavers as Augusto takes centre stage, shining equally as the TV clown and the angst-ridden actor. His push and pull relationship with his director Lúcia (Leandra Leal) is quite entertaining, especially a dream sequence in a restaurant. Some backstory from her character and a deeper look into his psychological state could have really added some more depth to the storyline.
The cinematography skills of Lula Carvalho (who comes from a well-renowned family of DPs) and the vibrant 80s pop music provided by Beto Villares really carve out a realistic depiction of big city Brazil. It smells and tastes like the 80s. One spectacular tracking shot shows Augusto in his living room and then glides through the skylines of São Paulo before zooming in on another building; it is tremendous. The lighting and shot composition mixed with the score makes this cinematic experience one that keeps the heart racing.
It’s no wonder that Bingo was selected as Brazil’s foreign-language Oscar submission for 2018, although with 92 films having made the cut it will be a tough race to the top five. If only the Academy opened all their categories to international films, it’s likely that English-language movies would have a tough time. Even for those familiar with the true story of former porn star Arlindo Barreto’s turn as Bozo, this film might feel a bit too out there. Luckily, Brichta’s wackiness keeps Rezende’s directorial debut in check.