In treatment for lung cancer and, with the practice of meditation, reinventing his mind/body relationship, actor Nelson Xavier breaks a three-year hiatus away from cinemas in the role of Amador, the retired hitman who stars in Comeback, debut feature film by Goiás filmmaker Erico Rassi, which enters the commercial circuit on the 25th of this month.
Present in major titles of national filmography, such as The Rifles, by Ruy Guerra (1964), ABC of love, by Eduardo Coutinho (1967), Two Lost in a Dirty Night (1967), by Braz Chediak, Go work you bum, by Hugo Carvana (1973), and They Don't Wear Black Tie, by Leon Hirszman (1981), Xavier repeats the good performance of the farewell, by Marcelo Galvão, his most recent work on the big screen, in which he was a romantic partner with Juliana Paes and, like the actress, won the award for best performance at the Gramado Festival in 2014.
At 75 years old, with almost 60 years of professional career, the veteran's court redeems problems, such as small inconsistencies in the script, and resizes qualities of Comeback, such as the gradual tension of the sequences, which dialogues with the monotonous routine of Amador. Experience aside, in an interview with CULTURE! Brazilians, Xavier emphasized the importance of an element that, according to him, reinvented his performance dynamics. “I attribute the success I've had with Amador to the fact that I've been meditating regularly for seven years. Meditation increased my sensitivity and allowed me to deal with interpretation in a new way. One of the meanings of starring in this film was to confirm that meditation has enriched me. Not only as a person, but also in the ability to deal with the matter of interpretation. In the farewell and Comeback, I felt a freedom that I had never experienced in my career”, he says.
Set in Goiás, on the outskirts of Anápolis, Rassi's hometown, Comeback narrates the ordinary day-to-day life of the ex-punisher, who abandons his old profession, but continues to work in the criminal underworld, performing the triple function of rental intermediary, delivery man and repairman of slot machines in decaying bars, such as the one in opening scene of the movie. In this close-up sequence, shot in one of those scruffy pubs, Amador is sought out by Davi's grandson, an old friend of his, a partner in the gunfighting days. Prone to crime, the boy, whose name is not revealed in the plot, voluntarily follows the daily life of the killer to learn the trade that once gave him fame and respect in the midst of banditry.
Uncomfortable with the insignificance of his new occupation and also with the lack of skill to deal with his clients, when the workday is over, Amador spends hours leafing through an album with about 50 pages in which, through collages of newspaper clippings from the press police officer of the 1980s and 1990s – “superstar of the Popular News”, paraphrasing the Racionais MCs –, keeps alive the memory of the crimes he committed. Filled with haunting headlines such as “massacre leaves six dead”, “bloodbath at dawn” and “couple shot dead”, for those unaware of Amador’s violent impetus, the album serves as a testament to the fact that he, in fact, he was a tough guy.
“I liked the character because he brings an independent view of Brazilian reality, never addressed in our cinema, despite the diversity of our production. I remember that Ozualdo Candeias made a film on the subject (Manelao the Earhunter, 1982), but with a completely different approach. I really enjoyed making the film too because I had complete freedom to do what I felt and chose,” says Xavier.
Shown first hand at the 2016 Rio Festival, Comeback (the title refers to a possible return of Amador to his old profession) earned Xavier the Best Actor award at the Rio show and was considered by some critics to be a signatory of the western aesthetic. Rassi, however, seems more guided by the “Third World Wild West” booklet by The Red Light Bandit, by Rogério Sganzerla. In the Brazilian-style bang-bang by the director from Goiás, the inspiration for the script, also by him, came from a real character, mythologized by the writer and journalist João Antônio.
“The film emerged from interviews I did with a snooker player named Carne Frita, who inspired the character of Amador. The two are similar in that they cling to past accomplishments as a way to feel relevant, and perhaps escape ostracism. I think the film has some Western elements, the strongest of which is the setting in a place where law and order are not fully established. There are also some visual aspects of the periphery, such as the dusty and little-traveled streets, which can refer to a western setting, but in a more incidental way”, defends the director.
Partially funded through crowdfunding, Comeback also had a network of collaborators. “The choice of Anápolis was due to both aesthetic aspects and production feasibility. First, we wanted a periphery setting that would bring something new, fleeing a reheated São Paulo periphery or Rio slum. And the possibility of filming in Anápolis, with all the support that was offered to us – from relatives, friends and local residents, certainly because it was our hometown – ended up joining the two things together”, concludes Rassi.
* Interview held on the 3rd of May, a week before the death of Nelson Xavier
Watch the official trailer for Comeback, by Erico Rassi.