Limite Screen 7 articles

Limite

1931

Limite Poster
  • Might have loved this had Peixoto gone fully abstract-experimental à la Man With a Movie Camera; as is, "Intermittently astonishing!" would be my pull quote. There are shots here so unusual and inventive that I'm not sure whether they really "work," even as I found them thrilling.

  • Sometimes cited as the greatest of all Brazilian films, this silent experimental feature (1931) by poet and novelist Mario Peixoto, who never completed another film, was seen by Orson Welles and won the admiration of everyone from Sergei Eisenstein to Walter Salles... The remarkably luscious and mobile cinematography (for which cameraman Edgar Brazil had to build special equipment) alone makes it well worth seeing.

  • The narrative, bracketed by a rowboat-set framing story, is thick and opaque as frosted glass. Exposition is scarce, and even the photography (with its ludicrously canted angles) obscures much more than it clarifies. Absent are any traditional story beats, replaced by a set of visual motifs that cycle across the screen... Every visual tactic available gets put toward fostering a mood of exuberant gloom. This is late silent cinema with a dash of Virginia Woolf and prophetic hints of Maya Deren.

  • Like Greed (1924), Citizen Kane (1941), A Brighter Summer Day (1991), or Hard to Be a God (2013), it is a rare cult film that lives up to its mythology, a singular work born out of peculiar insularity. When seen today, the film still seems to open doors to cinematic territories that remain vastly unexplored. This historical missing link can really be understood only through this prism, a legacy of decay, missed connections, and passionate reinvention.

  • The film constructs a rhythmic approach to time and space that stands alongside the finest efforts of Abel Gance, Jean Epstein, and Sergei Eisenstein... Close-ups and canted framings govern nearly every scene, as does an unforgettable arrangement of music, featuring Igor Stravinsky and Erik Satie, among others. The recurring image of a woman bound by handcuffs and staring into the camera belongs among the greatest emblems in all of silent cinema.

  • Even harder to follow than A Page of Madness, and a lot like homework. But use your eyes: the imagery is not simply beautiful, but evocative, a stream of visual cues about various entrapments set against a natural world that feels boundless. Each reeling shot—which direction is up?—feels both inscrutable and deliberate. Tack on another star if you, unlike me, think that pure abstraction is why god invented cameras.

  • From there it’s even more special: I first saw Mario Peixoto’s Limite (1931) on PBS in the Seventies, and, as far as I know, this weird avant-garde Brazilian silent hasn’t shown up anywhere within reach since. It’s certainly never been released or home-videoed, and yet here it is (thanks, Marty), a brooding, abstracted tale of romantic failure and intertwining lives envisioned as a web of close-ups, ellipses, seething symbols, and scorched Brazilian sun.

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