Limite (1931)

27 05 2008

Mario Peixoto’s first and only feature film has, through years of being bruised and battered, (both physically and critically) resurfaced with quite a bit of damage. Normally, I wouldn’t make a big deal about the quality of a film print but in this case, it is an unavoidable factor. At times, the nitrate decomposition takes up more screen space than the actual film itself. And yet, somehow, the non-ideal conditions do evoke a very bizarre atmosphere. Certainly, this was Peixoto’s intention from the start, but the state the film is in now lends it an oddly poetic tone.

A man and two women on a boat, drifts aimlessly in the ocean with the likelihood of death. All three characters recount how they got to their current state. The audience is shown sequences that may or may not have something leading up to narrative. A woman walks around in a desolate town, and runs her finger across a pair of scissors. A man goes to a graveyard and is greeted with an odd conversation, and then goes looking for a woman…

My retelling of the story is sketchy but that pretty much explains the appeal (at least to me) of the film: it is a series of undeniable images. Of course, this search has been explored to greater lengths with people like Werner Herzog, but Peixoto deserves plenty of credit for being one of the first. Similarly, the set up of the film is really quite wonderful and feels completely removed from even the more out-going cinema of the time. This makes Murnau’s Tabu look like a really standard film from the 30s. Though, Murnau’s film is more instantly captivating where as this takes sometime getting use to and even then, it drags. Oh boy, does it drag. The initial novelty of the film wears far too thin to carry it for 115 minutes but with that said, there’s a lot to appreciate here.