Carlos Reichenbach Dies: Brazilian Cinema Boca do Lixo Pioneer

Forbidden Paradise O Paraiso Proibido
Carlos Reichenbach's The Forbidden Paradise

Carlos ReichenbachCarlos Reichenbach, a Brazilian filmmaker and cinematographer perhaps best known for his sex comedies and dramas of the '70s and early '80s, died of heart failure yesterday, June 14, while being rushed to a São Paulo hospital. Yesterday was also the day Reichenbach turned 67. A heavy smoker, he had already suffered several heart attacks and had been hospitalized for respiratory ailments.

Born in Porto Alegre, in Brazil's southernmost state, Rio Grande do Sul, Reichenbach grew up in São Paulo. In 1965, while still in college, he shot (the now-lost) Via Sacra, an underground romp featuring full-frontal nudity, gay and lesbian sex, and full-fledged orgies. For his efforts, the 20-year-old Reichenbach and his companions spent a few hours in jail, for one of the Via Sacra performers was the daughter of the local chief of police.

Carlos Reichenbach's feature-film directorial debut took place three years later, when he took charge of one of the segments in the three-part As Libertinas, about the romantic and sexual entanglements of several holiday campers.

Carlos Reichenbach and the 'Boca do Lixo'

Reichenbach's other movies of the period include an array of erotic dramas and comedies, which were quite common in Brazil in the '70s. Those were distributed by a series of São Paulo-based companies located in a dingy part of town known as “Boca do Lixo” (literally, “Mouth of the Trash”). As a result of both their geographical location and the nature of their product, that group of movie distributors became known as “Boca do Lixo” – a sort of X-rated Brazilian Poverty Row.

According to filmmaker and historian Daniel Camargo, Carlos Reichenbach “since the [right-wing] censors believed his films were just more of the same seedy cinema produced in the area, he took advantage of that fact to tell anarchic, subversive stories, filled with social and political criticism.”

In that vein, Reichenbach's efforts include O Paraíso Proibido / The Forbidden Paradise (1971), his first solo effort as a director; Lilian M.: Relatório Confidencial / Lilian M.: Confidential Report, in which a countrywoman (Célia Olga) becomes the lover of a São Paulo industrialist; and A Ilha dos Prazeres Proibidos / The Island of Forbidden Pleasures (1979), where refugees find a haven from political persecution and sexual intolerance.

Another one: O Império do Desejo / The Empire of Desire (1981), about a widow (Meiry Vieira) who becomes enmeshed with a young stud, the police, hippies, a Communist journalist, and an exhibitionist prophet. Curiously, The Empire of Desire was released around the same time Brazil's right-wing military dictatorship finally allowed Nagisa Oshima's The Empire of the Senses to be shown on the country's screens. The title similarity is quite possibly not a coincidence.

Carlos Reichenbach's last directorial effort was Falsa Loura / Fake Blonde (2007), the story of a beautiful factory worker (Rosane Mulholland) who becomes involved with two handsome men (Cauã Reymond and Mauricio Mattar). From what I've read, the finale has nothing in common with Hollywood fantasies such as Pretty Woman or Working Girl.

Boca do Lixo: Carlos Reichenbach's 'greatest film school'

Daniel Camargo adds that Carlos Reichenbach “transcended the Boca do Lixo and its thematics, but never renounced his past. In his view, the Boca do Lixo was his greatest film school.”

Worth checking out (use some online translator or other): André Barcinski's criticism of Brazilian minister of culture Ana de Hollanda, about her comments following Carlos Reichenbach's death. As per Barcinski, de Hollanda's remarks, through which she seemed to dismiss Reichenbach's Boca do Lixo movies, were “one of the most bigoted, meaningless, and ignorant statements I've ever read.”

Another source for this article (and photos): Pipoca Moderna's Carlos Reichenbach's homage.

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