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1 review, 7 user ratings

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Durval Discos
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by Brian McKay

"They don’t sell CD’s, and they don’t take American Express"
4 stars

A Brazilian light comedy that takes a surprisingly darker tone in the third act, DURVAL DISCOS is a refreshing Brazilian festival entry that isn’t as obsessed with that nation’s culture of violence as some of the other Brazilian films were this year.

Durval (Ary Franca) is a thirty-something slacker with a long face and a Jimmy Page hairstyle. He runs a small shop called Durval Discos (“Disco” being Spanish for “Record”) out of the house that he shares with his overweight and overbearing mother, Carmita (Etty Fraser). Durval isn’t much of a ladies man, though he sort of tries with the nosy shop girl next door (Marisa Orth) who comes over frequently to chat and bum cigarettes. For the most part, though, Durval spends his days arguing with customers about why vinyl is better than CD’s (“the sound quality is better on CD, but not the music”) and enduring his meddling mother who drops subtle hints about how wonderful it would be to have grandchildren (as in “why aren’t you giving me any?”).

When managing the house seems to be taking its toll on his aging mother, Durval convinces her that they should hire a live-in maid. At first they can’t find anyone because Carmita is far too cheap to pay the going rate, but suddenly the beautiful Celia (Leticia’ Sabatella) shows up and agrees to take the job. She isn’t there for long, however, before she mysteriously disappears, leaving behind an adorable little girl named Kiki (Isabela Guasco) with a note urging them to “Take care of her for a few days”.

Naturally, the grandkid-hungry Carmita treats Kiki like a little princess, showering her with gifts she can’t afford and indulging the child’s every whim. Durval, on the other hand, finds that his growing attachment to the precocious child is tempered by the reality that she belongs to someone else. When Celia doesn’t return, and they discover Kiki’s identity on the local news, Durval is faced with a dilemma. Let Kiki stay for the sake of his mother, who has become obsessively attached to the child and refuses to let her go – or do the right thing and call the cops, so that Kiki can be returned to her family.

Now, if this were an American film in the vein of Three Men and a Baby, then it probably would have chugged along to an inevitable happy tearjerker ending. But to its credit, Durval Discos takes a slightly nasty turn in the final half hour, greatly compounding Durval’s dilemma and turning the film into a dark comedy of nearly tragic proportions. Said dilemma is rendered even more maddening by Carmita’s constant avoidance tactics to keep Durval from doing the logical thing. Still, by the time the final frames of the film roll, with Durval standing out in the street breathing a heavy sigh of relief, the viewer almost feels that same level of alleviation with him.

Aside from some solid lead performances, and the infectious cuteness of the little girl, Durval Discos also benefits from some even-handed direction that manages to keep the confines of the record store and adjoined house (where 90 percent of the film takes place) from feeling claustrophobic. Likewise, the supporting characters, from the nosy shop girl next door to regular customers of DJ Theo and Fat Marley (kind of a toned-down Brazilian version of Jay and Silent Bob) keep the film’s mellow comedic ebb and flow constant.

If you feel like checking out a capricious little tale that has been blessedly stripped of the pat “Hollywood Happy Ending”, then DURVAL DISCOS spins a mean platter of offbeat comedic goodness.

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originally posted: 05/06/03 13:24:20
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 San Francisco Film Festival. For more in the 2003 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/25/05 Paul Imseih Can Brazilian cinema be this bad? 1 stars
10/20/04 ana very different, funny & serious, deep, made me think! 5 stars
4/23/04 Cecile Just for the "record", in Brazil they speak Portuguese. "Disco" being Portuguese for Record 4 stars
4/06/04 Wesley Excellent brasilian film! 5 stars
10/20/03 Ignacio great!!!!! 5 stars
9/25/03 Ruy Galisi Very Good 4 stars
5/14/03 Tokee McBonghit What's the point of living without my daily injection of herion? 1 stars
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  03-May-2003 (NR)



Directed by
  Anna Muylaert

Written by
  Anna Muylaert

  Ary França
  Etty Fraser
  Isabela Guasco
  Marisa Orth
  Letícia Sabatella
  Rita Lee

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