19 May 2024

Tropicália DVD Review

tropicalia_dvd_ukTropicália is a documentary on a cultural movement that happened in Brazil in the mid to late 1960s. It combined avant-garde art (such as films and painting) and native Brazilian Folk music along with psychedelic rock. The movement is best known because of the retrospective success of its leading band Os Mutantes, who were an amazing psychedelic rock band. They were not well known outside of their native Brazil till the 90s when people as diverse as David Byrne (who released a best of on his Luaka Bop record label) Beck and Kurt Cobain praising them.

The movement was very much a reaction against the closed minded Marxist students who were very anti-American anything and the military dictatorship that was in power at the time. It was made by people who certainly had left leaning politics but they equally inspired by American (and British) culture as well as there own native culture. This brings out a truly unique sound in their music that is both commercial and experimental simultaneously. Many of the musicians were later arrested because of their political believes and in many cases forced into exile (they mostly ended up in London as you did in the “swinging 60s”). Along with Os Mutantes the most important musicians were Caetano Veloso (a singer/songwriter considered on par with Bob Dylan or The Beatles and has a smile that warrants a biopic), and Gilberto Gil and they all collaborated on each other’s work. Much of the music was complied on an album titled naturally “ Tropicália ”.

The documentary is a mixed bag to say the least. It obviously boosts fantastic music and also an amazing wealth of footage but it lacks a real narrative. The film just gives you the gist of what they were doing and the suppression of it. However the problem is there aren’t enough substantial interviews to make a narrative documentary and most of them are audio interviews often with music backing in and very hallucinatory visuals at times. The first 20 minutes you get introduced to everyone but you often just get a name with audio interview so who is who gets very confusing.

The film overall is a nice introduction to a very fascinating time in Brazilian history and some gorgeous music. The narrative issues certainly bring it down from a being the truly great music documentary it should have been considering what they had to work with. It’s however worth watching and renting (if anyone still does that), streaming or waiting for it to hit the sales rack in the coming months.


Ian Schultz

Rating: 12
UK Release Date: 8th July 2013 (DVD)
Director: Marcelo Machado
Cast: Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso
Buy: Tropicalia [Blu-ray] / [DVD]

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