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HomeNewsArchivesCRITICS LOVE OR LOATHE 'CENTRAL STATION'

CRITICS LOVE OR LOATHE 'CENTRAL STATION'

"Central Station," the movie that will inaugurate the St. Croix Landmarks Society's Foreign Films at Whim series, has a lot in common with "Three Seasons," a picture shown on St. Thomas last month as an American Red Cross fund raiser. Here's why you may or may not want to go see it.
Both are "foreign" films about contemporary society's victims, notably children, of urbanization run amok in far-away places that most of us would prefer of think of as exotic — postwar Viet Nam in "Three Seasons" and the vast expanse of ever-developing Brazil in "Central Station."
Both found their first American audience acceptance through Robert Redford's Sundance film operations: "Three Seasons" at this year's Sundance Festival became the first foreign film to capture three top awards. The script for "Central Station" was developed at the Sundance Institute, and at last year's festival the picture was well received as one of the world-premiere screenings that separate from the awards competition.
Both focus in large part on an endearing if incorrigible little street kid that every mother in the audience would love to take home when the lights come up.
Both are filmed in the language of the setting, with English subtitles — something of a curiosity for filmgoers hereabouts.
Enough of comparisons. If you missed "Three Seasons," you missed it. There's still time to decide whether to head out to Whim on Saturday or Sunday evening to see "Central Station."
What will entice you? Well, not the actors — the stars are unheard of outside Brazil, and, in the case of the kid, unknown there, too. He was shining shoes at the Rio de Janeiro airport when found by the filmmakers, won out over 1,500 other tryouts and, if you believe the publicity, had never seen a movie in his life.
Try the story line, And try "the sleeping giant," as Brazilians have called their own land for half a century or more.
The plot goes like this: A cynical onetime teacher who has little faith in humanity works in Rio's main train station as a letter-writer for hire. Her daily exposure to the entanglements of the illiterate underclass move her to nothing more emotional than later tossing many of the missives in the trash.
One day the mother of a boy who longs to meet his father dictates an angry letter to her long-absent spouse. Later she returns to send off another that's all sweetness. Next thing you know, she's hit and killed by a bus, and the boy turns for help to the only "connection" he has with his father — the letter writer, of course.
She does her best to get rid of the kid — at one point literally selling him to an illicit adoption operation — but to no avail. Traveling by bus through the gorgeous scenery of a nation larger and far more diverse than the continental United States, they make their way to Brazil's drought-stricken "nordeste," or Northeast, a vast wasteland from which literally millions of miserably poor people have migrated to the overcrowded cities of the Brazilian coast in a futile search for a better life.
Students of Brazilian film may be aware of another picture produced there with a street urchin as its main focus. "Pixote," a 1981 work about a little kid who committed random crimes of violence without remorse, was received as a shocking indictment of society's callousness. "Central Station" may be seen as an intimation of its potential, at least, for deliverance.
Does the movie have a happy ending? Suffice it to say, at least some reviewers recommend you take a good supply of hankies. For what it's worth, here's what some critics accessed on the Internet have had to say.
Lucy Mohl, Film.com: "What gives the film its strength is that cutting away the first layer only reveals more levels of toughness; it takes time to discover the pure soul beneath. . . 'Central do Brasil' [the Portuguese title] works its own territory, by the nature of spreading its journey across unknown stretches of Brazil and through the more familiar but difficult terrain of trust and affection."
Val Moses, Denver Sidewalk: "The movie occasionally has the down-to-earth feel of a documentary, and the film crew certainly had the experience of reality impinging on their work. When [well-known actress Fernanda] Montenegro set up her letter-writing booth in the station, people flocked to it."
Eddie Cockrell, Nitrate Online: "subtly magnificent. . . one great movie that will be embraced by audiences all over the world."
Peter Brunette, Film.com: "Its blatantly manipulative pairing of an adorable young boy and a selfish, honesty-challenged older woman, who first battle and then learn to love one another amid the photogenic surroundings of Brazil, seemed so calculating that I could never get emotionally involved. . . I am thankful that at least the kid did not also have an adorable dog."
Katharine Huntley, Dramatica: "wrought with obvious religious symbolism and certain dialogue that does not translate well, [the film] is nevertheless a beautifully illustrated 'grand argument story' complete with characters that are portrayed realistically, in particular the fabulous Fernanda Montenegro's protagonist, [the letter writer] Dora."
Mr. Showbiz: "Beautifully textured and detailed. . . often convincing, but right from the start it's headed into a narrative brick wall . . . You can see the artificial, heartwarming purpose behind every scene as the movie steadfastly approaches sniffly salvation."
Naysaying aside, "Central Station" has garnered a goodly number of international honors. At the 1998 Berlin Film Festival, it won best film, and Montenegro was named best actress. For the 1999 Academy Awards, it was nominated for best foreign-language film and Montenegro was nominated for best actress.
About 350 persons turned out to view the picture two weekends ago at the opening of the new "Cinema Sundays" series at the Reichhold Center for the Arts on St. Thomas. The vast majority seemed favorably impressed, and many were moved to more than a smattering of applause as the closing credits came up.
The "Foreign Films at Whim" showings Friday and Saturday begin at 7 p.m. Complimentary hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar will be available from 6:30 p.m. Admission is $8 for Landmarks Society members and $10 for non-members.

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"Central Station," the movie that will inaugurate the St. Croix Landmarks Society's Foreign Films at Whim series, has a lot in common with "Three Seasons," a picture shown on St. Thomas last month as an American Red Cross fund raiser. Here's why you may or may not want to go see it.
Both are "foreign" films about contemporary society's victims, notably children, of urbanization run amok in far-away places that most of us would prefer of think of as exotic -- postwar Viet Nam in "Three Seasons" and the vast expanse of ever-developing Brazil in "Central Station."
Both found their first American audience acceptance through Robert Redford's Sundance film operations: "Three Seasons" at this year's Sundance Festival became the first foreign film to capture three top awards. The script for "Central Station" was developed at the Sundance Institute, and at last year's festival the picture was well received as one of the world-premiere screenings that separate from the awards competition.
Both focus in large part on an endearing if incorrigible little street kid that every mother in the audience would love to take home when the lights come up.
Both are filmed in the language of the setting, with English subtitles -- something of a curiosity for filmgoers hereabouts.
Enough of comparisons. If you missed "Three Seasons," you missed it. There's still time to decide whether to head out to Whim on Saturday or Sunday evening to see "Central Station."
What will entice you? Well, not the actors -- the stars are unheard of outside Brazil, and, in the case of the kid, unknown there, too. He was shining shoes at the Rio de Janeiro airport when found by the filmmakers, won out over 1,500 other tryouts and, if you believe the publicity, had never seen a movie in his life.
Try the story line, And try "the sleeping giant," as Brazilians have called their own land for half a century or more.
The plot goes like this: A cynical onetime teacher who has little faith in humanity works in Rio's main train station as a letter-writer for hire. Her daily exposure to the entanglements of the illiterate underclass move her to nothing more emotional than later tossing many of the missives in the trash.
One day the mother of a boy who longs to meet his father dictates an angry letter to her long-absent spouse. Later she returns to send off another that's all sweetness. Next thing you know, she's hit and killed by a bus, and the boy turns for help to the only "connection" he has with his father -- the letter writer, of course.
She does her best to get rid of the kid -- at one point literally selling him to an illicit adoption operation -- but to no avail. Traveling by bus through the gorgeous scenery of a nation larger and far more diverse than the continental United States, they make their way to Brazil's drought-stricken "nordeste," or Northeast, a vast wasteland from which literally millions of miserably poor people have migrated to the overcrowded cities of the Brazilian coast in a futile search for a better life.
Students of Brazilian film may be aware of another picture produced there with a street urchin as its main focus. "Pixote," a 1981 work about a little kid who committed random crimes of violence without remorse, was received as a shocking indictment of society's callousness. "Central Station" may be seen as an intimation of its potential, at least, for deliverance.
Does the movie have a happy ending? Suffice it to say, at least some reviewers recommend you take a good supply of hankies. For what it's worth, here's what some critics accessed on the Internet have had to say.
Lucy Mohl, Film.com: "What gives the film its strength is that cutting away the first layer only reveals more levels of toughness; it takes time to discover the pure soul beneath. . . 'Central do Brasil' [the Portuguese title] works its own territory, by the nature of spreading its journey across unknown stretches of Brazil and through the more familiar but difficult terrain of trust and affection."
Val Moses, Denver Sidewalk: "The movie occasionally has the down-to-earth feel of a documentary, and the film crew certainly had the experience of reality impinging on their work. When [well-known actress Fernanda] Montenegro set up her letter-writing booth in the station, people flocked to it."
Eddie Cockrell, Nitrate Online: "subtly magnificent. . . one great movie that will be embraced by audiences all over the world."
Peter Brunette, Film.com: "Its blatantly manipulative pairing of an adorable young boy and a selfish, honesty-challenged older woman, who first battle and then learn to love one another amid the photogenic surroundings of Brazil, seemed so calculating that I could never get emotionally involved. . . I am thankful that at least the kid did not also have an adorable dog."
Katharine Huntley, Dramatica: "wrought with obvious religious symbolism and certain dialogue that does not translate well, [the film] is nevertheless a beautifully illustrated 'grand argument story' complete with characters that are portrayed realistically, in particular the fabulous Fernanda Montenegro's protagonist, [the letter writer] Dora."
Mr. Showbiz: "Beautifully textured and detailed. . . often convincing, but right from the start it's headed into a narrative brick wall . . . You can see the artificial, heartwarming purpose behind every scene as the movie steadfastly approaches sniffly salvation."
Naysaying aside, "Central Station" has garnered a goodly number of international honors. At the 1998 Berlin Film Festival, it won best film, and Montenegro was named best actress. For the 1999 Academy Awards, it was nominated for best foreign-language film and Montenegro was nominated for best actress.
About 350 persons turned out to view the picture two weekends ago at the opening of the new "Cinema Sundays" series at the Reichhold Center for the Arts on St. Thomas. The vast majority seemed favorably impressed, and many were moved to more than a smattering of applause as the closing credits came up.
The "Foreign Films at Whim" showings Friday and Saturday begin at 7 p.m. Complimentary hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar will be available from 6:30 p.m. Admission is $8 for Landmarks Society members and $10 for non-members.