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Cidade Baixa
Cidade Baixa (2005)
Movie
  • Director:
    Sérgio Machado
  • Category:
  • Writer:
    Karim Aïnouz,Sérgio Machado
  • Cast:
    Alice Braga,Wagner Moura,Lázaro Ramos
  • Time:
    1h 38min
  • Year:
    2005
Lifelong friends Deco and Naldinho, who own a small steaming boat in Bahia, meet strip-dancer Karinna. Both men fall for her and their friendship is deeply shattered.
Casts
Cast overview, first billed only:
Lázaro Ramos Lázaro Ramos - Deco
Wagner Moura Wagner Moura - Naldinho
Alice Braga Alice Braga - Karinna
Maria Menezes Maria Menezes - Luzinete
Joao Miguel Leonelli Joao Miguel Leonelli - Pharmacist
Débora Santiago Débora Santiago - Sirlene
Hugo Rodas Hugo Rodas - Chilean Commander
Divina Valéria Divina Valéria - Zilu
Dois Mundos Dois Mundos - Himself
Gerónimo Gerónimo - Fuá
Fernando Fulco Fernando Fulco - Delegate
David Herman David Herman - English Commander
Olga Machado Olga Machado - Doctor
Fernanda Freitas Fernanda Freitas - Nilma
Ricardo Luedy Ricardo Luedy - Client of Karinna

Cidade Baixa (2005)
Adaly
Adaly
Reading the IMDb comments from non-Brazilian reviewers, I get the impression "Cidade Baixa" has been mismarketed internationally -- it's far from the ambition, impact, range or scope of "City of God" or "Central Station". It's rather a modest chamber movie about a love triangle setting apart lifelong friends Deco (the incredibly overrated Lázaro Ramos, here in a one-note-so-minimalist-it's-really-lifeless performance) and Naldinho (intense, charismatic Wagner Moura) over the sexual attention and ultimately the "true" love of stripper Karinna (newcomer Alice Braga, sexy, lovely, inexperienced and unconvincing).

Director Sérgio Machado's only previous solo feature effort was "Onde a Terra Acaba", a well-researched documentary on Brazilian legendary filmmaker Mário Peixoto and his single finished film, the 1931 classic "Limite". Like many directors who cross the bridge from documentaries to fiction, Machado here is completely taken over by "the magic of acting". While Machado's undisguised fascination with his three lead stars is overwhelming, the characters in "Cidade Baixa" lack real essence -- the emotional outbursts are there, but the motivations are never clear. The great performance and best designed character comes from veteran José Dumont: he creates a multi-layered, throbbing character in five minutes and has more truth and energy than the three stars combined.

The plot is painfully predictable, it has been told before (and better) countless times. The film's ultimate point -- that a threesome is as good an arrangement as any -- is only shyly hinted at, and probably won't come across for many viewers, but the sexual tension is tangible the whole time. The film is professionally accomplished, but I'm not sure the director's choice for claustrophobic settings and overuse of close-up shots is helpful to the story-- indeed it's a shame that we hardly get to see the open spaces and the entrancing population of Cidade Baixa (the lower part of the city of Salvador, capital of Bahia), which, after all, is the title of the movie! If you blink, you'll miss the falling-to-pieces but still impressive colonial architecture, and you may not see the low-life poverty and fight-for-life vibrancy typical of that neighborhood, because the camera only has eyes for the three stars. Even the Lacerda elevator (the architectural landmark that divides the Lower from Upper City) is seen but for a few seconds. And, for those of us who know and love Salvador for its magical spiritual and carnal energy, the life-affirming music, the irrepressible live-and-let-live savoir-vivre, it's really hard to believe how grim, bleak and sullen all these characters are.

Anyway, the film is never boring, has some good scenes and it's thankfully unpretentious, but the loose ending can be a letdown for many viewers. Maybe next time the talented but still unimposing Sérgio Machado will find a finer balance to his elements, adding a thicker, less tired plot and widening his framings to fully explore his locations, all of which deserves his attention as much as his cast.
Envias
Envias
This is a mesmeric movie about the corrosive effect of an attractive and sensual woman's intrusion on the close, almost intimate, relationship between two men. Set in the seamy underworld of the Brazilian port of Salvador de Bahia, the film takes its name from the lower (baixa) quarter of that city. One of the few "touristy" shots in the movie is of the lift connecting the Cidade Baixa with the Cidade Alta, a treasure house of colonial architecture, of which we catch but one brief glimpse in the film.

To my mind the film is as notable for what it doesn't state explicitly, as for what it does. Neither of the two male protagonists refers to the fact that they are of different colours; but it is hard to avoid the thought that this plays a part in the rift which develops between them, and is foreshadowed by the savage cockfight between a black and a white bird in an early scene.

The film is uncompromising - and entirely non-judgemental - in its depiction both of the criminal activities of its men, and of the prostitution of the women. We may not approve of what we are seeing, but "this is how it is" the film tells us. The acting is of the highest standard, with Alice Braga (niece of Sonia) outstandingly sexy; and the fast-paced and close-up camera work glues the viewer to the screen.

See it!
Orevise
Orevise
In the Northeastern of Brazil, the twenty years old hooker Karinna (Alice Braga) negotiates a travel to Salvador, Bahia, in the boat of the friends Deco (Lázaro Ramos) and Naldinho (Wagner Moura), having sex with them and getting some money in return. Deco first, and Naldinho later, fall in love for Karinna, who likes both of them, forming a triangle of love and jeopardizing the friendship of Deco and Naldinho.

"Cidade Baixa" is a real and cruel triangle of love, having the landscape of the red light district in the lower zone of Salvador and the environment of hopeless people that lives in the limit of the marginality of the society, prostituting, robbing, and fighting for surviving. The plot is actually unpredictable, with many possibilities and an open end, having the excellent actor Lázaro Ramos in the lead role, with the also good actor Wagner Moura. But the great surprise is the unknown actress Alice Braga, niece of Sonia Braga, performing a very erotic and hot character and dignifying the name of her aunt. This low budget movie exhales sexual tension and eroticism, and is very pleasant and recommended, showing a deglamorized side of Brazil unknown even for many Brazilians. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Cidade Baixa" ("Lower City")
EROROHALO
EROROHALO
Penned as the next City of God/ Amores Perros/ Y Tu Mama Tambien simply because it is the next good film to come out of South America, is to be expected. However, Lower City doesn't quite live up to its comparative brothers but does manage to create a feel of its own. I empathised with each of the characters and felt they were played brilliantly by the actors involved. There was a real sense of passion with the helplessness of the poverty/ crime lifestyle they find themselves in.

One problem with the narrative that I felt was the rather instant impact the female love interest has on this supposed solid friendship. The film doesn't really know what it wants to express: is it an incite into the underbelly of south American society or an erotic platform for the characters and their drama. The pace dips in the middle but the end delivers excitement and resolution.

As a whole, I enjoyed this film but was far from blown away
Chilele
Chilele
Cidade Baixa is more of an accomplished film than you might think. The locations and the camera-work are well presented, The acting is very realistic and the main actress is beautiful as well as talented. It may not be City of God or even Central Station but this film is well paced and full of energy. The Cane and Abel style relationship between the two male leads becomes integral to the film's message: should you let a woman get in the way of a friendship. Well quite frankly you shouldn't as love and lust can be destructive as well as invigorating - how this manifests itself in the film is something I won't go into so as not to spoil it for you. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the film and I would recommend anybody to watch it.
Siratius
Siratius
I just watched this movie and I absolutely loved it. There was raw real emotion that kept me glued to screen the entire 98 minutes. There was never a dull moment. The actors were great and the emotion that they portrayed was so realistic. I think the director did a great job at showing us that it is possible for someone to be in love with two people and it was interesting how there was an equal level of love between all three members of the triangle.

This film also had some very steamy sex scenes which made me blush a little :) I highly recommend this movie if you are into drama and emotion and turmoil and just high emotions.
Dagdarad
Dagdarad
Lower City has several problems, the primary being that the story is a tired retread. We've seen it all before..the financial desperation causing people to do anything to survive, and an old fashioned love triangle. Director Sergio Machado brings nothing fresh to these well-worn story threads. Another complaint is although the film was shot in Salvador Brazil, we barely see any of the CITY in Lower City. Most of the film takes place on a boat or within the interiors of clubs, hotel rooms, and apartments. Another major fault lies in the fact that there is little to like about the three main characters. The men practice misogyny, rob, steal, and enjoy watching a good cock fight in their down time. The woman is a career prostitute. I felt quite detached from these characters rather early in the film. The ending was one that most could clearly see coming up Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue).

What DID work was the sexual chemistry between the three leads. The love scenes were passionate and convincing. I only wish the rest of the film had the same energy.

5/10
Goodman
Goodman
It's a drama about a love triangle's story of two friends which both fall in love with a prostitute. DECO (played by Lázaro Ramos) and NALDINHO (Wagner Moura) are two best friends which live, like brothers, in a boat. One day they meet KARINNA (Ana Braga) and give her a ride to Salvador, agreeing in the middle to have sex with her (she's a prostitute). But what they weren't expecting is that they will both fall in love with her, and she with them, both. There it starts a confusing and dangerous love triangle where no one wants to be the weakest link, but where any one of them has something to lose…

This film is interesting because it characterizes some social groups behind this love triangle, portraying them with crudeness but also veracity. I think the main characters are well chosen and the actors too, but even so I think these characters should have had a better development and the acting could have been a little better at parts.

(Spoilers)

In a film like this I wasn't expecting an open ending, like the one it has. On one hand it's nice, because I appreciate open stories, especially those which make you think about it, and almost "forces" you to create your own alternative ending; but on the other hand I think some explanations should have been given to the viewer. It ends almost in a poetic way, but we get nothing about their choices. It literally ends in the climax, providing us no conclusion at all!

(End Spoilers)

I did appreciate this movie, but, globally, I think it could have been a little better. I score it 6/10.
heart of sky
heart of sky
This is an excellent, well made love triangle story. A little gem. Well worth a look. It gives a fascinating insight into the underclass in Brazilian life. The cock fight scene seemed like a bit of an over allusion to Amores perros but was good nevertheless. Cinematography was fab too. Don't expect to see City of God or Central Station just because its from Brazil. Its a different story that stands up well in its own right. I'm not sure about the translation of the title into the English "Lower City". "Underbelly" might have been a more appropriate title. Alice Braga is very watchable too! I am looking forward to seeing more from this director and his team.
blac wolf
blac wolf
The "tart-with-a-heart" theme is slightly overdone in this otherwise touching film about a love triangle, but 'Lower City' is saved by some fine camera work and the sheer chemistry manifest between its participants; you can really believe in the camaraderie, lusts and jealousies of its characters. Stealing the show is Alice Braga, who doesn't even have an exceptionally pretty face, but whose body oozes sexuality in every scene. Add in skilfully chosen music, and perceptive insights into the nature of life in the Brazilian underclass and the dangers of a culture based on machismo, and the result is short, sweet, and unexpectedly strong. It's hard to imagine a version set in England - but the film exploits the Brazilian self-image perfectly, keeping one step ahead of cliché throughout.
Kigabar
Kigabar
Three complex and damaged characters on a journey together in a sexually intense film which makes LOWER CITY such an interesting story to watch unfold. The location of Salvador De Bahia's lower city and the interior and exterior shots add a background which is perfect for the love story to take place and you can feel the heat jump off the screen.

The three actors are tremendous in their roles-Lazaro Ramos, Wagner Moura and the gorgeous, breathtaking young actress, Alice Braga. Their sex scenes add to the development of their characters and of course set the film on its course. Alice Braga is a young "Sharon Stone" in the making and her sexuality, intelligence and sense of herself, what is right for her, make each scene she is in an electrifying demonstration of beauty and talent. Braga should go far.

The final scene was a bit of a let down, but then, what else really could have happened to the three caught in a triangle in the slums and heat of LOWER CITY. One hopes for a sequel of this intense story.
Celen
Celen
The words "steamy" and "sultry" are thrown around and placed on the cover of the DVD, but while this movie does have its share of sex scenes, most of them come across as desperate and depressing.

It's a sort of underworld these characters inhibit (therefore "Lower City") and when sex isn't dealt with in terms of business, it's motivated by primal lust. But really - after decades of porn taking over the mainstream, are there still filmmakers left who hope to get some mileage out of this? "Y tu mama tambien" worked because the sex was hardly ever just about the act of doing it, but about an innocence lost and about well established rivalries. Here, the drama reaches the complexity of a bar fight.

There is actually something of a bar fight that marks the climax of this movie - about 10 minutes in. From here on the momentum is grinding downwards, slowly. The rest of the story consists of one guy looking jealously at the other guy making out with the girl. Reconciliation. Repeat. And some routine CRIME! thrown in to spice up the hot hot hot, um, boredom.
Kamick
Kamick
This is a gutsy and challenging film in the vein of City of God. It has a similar energy with frenetic camera work and it's depiction of people at the lower end of the food chain. It is set on location in various seaside cities and towns in the northeast of Brazil, showcasing beautiful vistas (though rarely in postcard fashion) and urban decay that I found very photogenic. It wasn't as dark or frenzied as City of God.

Producer Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries, Central Station), director Sérgio Machado and writer Karim Ainouz are regular collaborators. Machado wrote for Ainouz's Madame Sata (2002), which had a limited release in Australia last year and both Machado and Ainouz wrote for Salles' Behind The Sun (1998). The style and subject of Lower City had much in common with Madame Sata, though the latter was based on a true character (a bandit-turned-transvestite performer) earlier last century.

Right from the start, sex is a confronting element of the film, as we follow the exploits of a young woman, Karinna (Alice Braga) who is readily prepared to sell herself in order to hitch a ride with a pair of men, Deco (Lázaro Ramos) and Naldinho (Wagner Moura) on their boat to Salvador.

We get glimpses into the shady past of the men. One is attempting to reform while the other appears to be sinking into bad habits. This is not their only conflict. While they profess their brotherly love for each other, jealously grows over each man's sexual interest in Karinna.

Deco and Naldinho are of different races. An early scene of a cock fight between a black and a white bird seems prophetic. The deterioration of brotherly love was a major focus of the story, and it was well detailed with subtlety – much of it by glaring looks rather than the spoken word. The actors' performances were all passionate, credible and their characters well-developed and interesting. The film's depiction of the darker side of a society was a fresh change to the homogenous, polished middle-class of Hollywood.

The film seemed to struggle slightly at times with continuity but remained emotionally gripping throughout. The exotic music – both traditional and contemporary – was used to good effect and greatly enhanced the cinematic experience. There was a satisfying level of ambiguity in the film, both in motives and the finale. We are not handed everything on a plate for immediate consumption, so we can come out of the cinema ruminating about the experience.

Eroticism is a significant but incidental element in the film, used as a vehicle for revealing aspects of the characters, and how destructive it can be to a relationship. While love triangles are not a new subject, its depiction in Lower City was achieved with depth, originality, gritty realism and emotional honesty. This aspect was a little reminiscent of the scenario in Y Tu Mama Tambien, but in a much seedier way.

Lower City, despite its depictions of sex and violence, is at heart both gentle and non-judgmental. For me, it didn't reach the greatness of City of God (to which it is being compared), though it really is a very different film. Serious film-goers will appreciate it for its sensual and raw eroticism, ambiguity, grittiness and emotional depth. It is well worth seeing.
Hrguig
Hrguig
Trying way too hard to re-create the splendor of City of God, Lower City falls way too short of being a good piece of Brazilian cinema. With all the good ingredients, violence, steady-cam shots, sexuality, and adult language, one would think that this would be a good rival to City of God. Unfortunately Lower City tries to be too raw for its own good. Filled with over 30 minutes of strictly sex scenes that amount to nothing, this film turns out to be a better idea on paper than on film. Although the film tries to be as realistic as possible, being filmed out on the streets and in old buildings throughout Brasil, it ends up being somewhat atrocious and silly at times. Another film that compares itself to a masterpiece on the DVD sleeve and ends up disappointing, let us hope this will not be a trend.
Funky
Funky
The performances in the Lower City were quite good. All three of the leads are given an opportunity to make an impression. The script however, leaves a bit to be desired. The motives and motivations seem about as clear as mud. Why does this triangle exist? What does she see in each of the men that makes them indispensable to her? When one walks away, why does she pursue him to keep him in the fold and in the game? And finally, and most importantly, why .do men that seem to have no problem with her plying her trade of prostitution with other men, suddenly want to beat hell out of each other when one or the other of them sleeps with her? "Because the script says so" is the only answer I can come up with. That is the weakness of this film. If these questions had been answered we would have had better film and I would have been able to rate it higher. Even some hinted at answers would have been appreciated. Maybe next time....
Wrathmaster
Wrathmaster
"Cidade Baixa" is a very deep movie, depth of which you can only see if you are willing to go beyond its surface of "strong sexual content" (by American standards, at least). In a nutshell, the film is "very real" without being hyper-realistic. It is like everything is "really" happening and a camera simply happened to capture the facts. It shows how life can simply take you to places/circumstances and you just gotta live with that, because you were placed in this world somewhere where there aren't many opportunities for you to do something about those issues. In that respect, we have poverty on the surface, where the characters live such a "sublife" that they do all kinds of things to survive – e.g., prostitution and crimes. Underlying, we have cultural issues, which are just like nature when they are very encrusted in the life of each individual constituting society. In the case at hand, we have two men who love each other deeply and don't even perceive that what they want is really each other -- rather than a woman. And that is because they have learned that in a macho society, two men should love each other just as brothers or the like. Somewhat contradictorily, many women in Brazilian Northeastern society – if not in Brazil as a whole – have learned to live with male homosexuality in a very interesting way, often making themselves blind to what is going on around them, involving their husbands and other guys. So here we have a woman, Karinna, willing to live a real threesome relationship, without having to verbalize it in that way. She sees the love Naldinho and Deco have for each other as something higher and she wants to live that with them, no matter what. She just can't really make her mind up as to which one she wants, because she wants both, she wants them together, because the beautiful thing she sees in them is their being together and she wants "a piece of it." However, that becomes hard to achieve, given that we are dealing with two macho men, who are not even aware that they want each other. And don't get me wrong: these guys want women real bad – however, they want each other as well. They may not know that on a conscious level, but they sexually yearn for each other. The reckless life the three of them live is just the iceberg tip of their longings – they can't face them, so they live an apparently senseless life. There we have the "strong sexual content" back in discussion: now, given the context laid out above, the sexual content gains much more sense. The most significant sexual scene being when Deco and Karinna have sex next to Naldinho while he's supposedly asleep, and Deco has just caressed Naldinho's chest, in a way that sure makes one think he desires him. It's like: the woman is conveniently placed in the scene in order for Deco to be able to materialize his sexual desire, right there when he felt it, next to Naldinho. Now, believe me, I truly think two men can be friends without any (unconscious/suppressed) sexual interest for each other. However, if you watch the movie really carefully, you can find many other signs hinting at that. In summary, the film is about showing how things simply happen sometimes and how people react to those things, just being taken with the flow of life, sometimes not even being aware of how they are victims of the circumstances in life and in society.
Zamo
Zamo
The movie starts with a very good feeling and the steady-cam makes it very realistic. The actors are in a very good mood and convincing. There's a great chemistry between they all, specially in the sex scenes.

So why I've give only 7 to this movie? Because the plot seems to lost itself after the half of the movie. If you are a fan of Brazilian movies like myself, this is a must watch since it's casted by two of the new generation of great Brazilian actors (Lazaro Ramos and Wagner Moura), Alice Braga is great in her role as a prostitute also, but it's a shame that so good efforts couldn't make this movie a little better.
Xtreem
Xtreem
This movie got the Cannes film festival's audience crazy! It is superb the way director leads those three Brazilian actors. They made me think YEAP, they are completely into the movie, and YEAP, they know what they are doing and like it!

Threesome has never been discussed this way in the history of movies... There are those whom compare this film with François Truffaut's "Jules et Jim". The plot is the same (a love triangle concerning two friends and an impulsive woman)...

I loved and I've read it's been succeeding every film festival it goes. I believe the director is the Brazilian's new director to be wildest projected, as Fernando Meirelles did 3 years ago with the superb "City of God"
Yellow Judge
Yellow Judge
Having heard and read so many good reviews about this movie, I had pretty high expectations. But you can easily summarize this movie in 1 sentence and some cheap sex-scenes. There's really not much to tell, camera work wasn't that good, it's a wannabe movie. They must've been thinking: Cidade the Deus was a big hit, let's make a crappy movie and sell it by comparing it to this masterpiece. Music makes good some things. Emotions are not well worked out, especially for a movie like this. I really don't understand all the fuss about this. Go see it if you want to, but it's a waste of time and money. The acting isn't bad, but it isn't good neither.
watchman
watchman
Two childhood friends, Deco (Lazaro Ramos) and Naldinho (Wagner Moura) meet Karinna (Alice Braga), a stripper looking for a cheap ride to the city of Salvador, in exchange for sexual favours with the boys. Who could pass up a blonde like that, and in record time, we see the friends getting it on with her inside their steamship.

It's actually an extremely simple story, with lacklustre sex, some flesh, and again, a short story premise being extrapolated painfully into a feature length movie. The central theme here is the disintegration of a deep brotherly friendship because of man's innate selfish nature when it comes to affairs of the heart, and how lust takes over to blind the dudes that it just isn't worth fighting over a slut.

If I may paraphrase a popular saying, why forgo your sights on the various bikes available in the store for the village bicycle, which everyone has ridden? If there should be any plus points for the film, then it would be the handling of this character exploration of the breaking down of a friendship. However, that alone isn't sufficient to garner your attention through the movie.

Alice Braga, the Brazilian actress who starred in City of God, looks good in the role, but seriously it's nothing to fantastic about it. Her Karinna is one seriously indecisive about the matters of the heart, though totally passionate about losing her clothes without batting an eyelid. While she realizes that her indecisive ways is causing havoc to the friendship of both men she likes, making some preliminary plans to escape the situation but not execute it doesn't help much too. What made it all worse, and this is directly linked to the story, is the frustration of leaving things just hanging in the air. The movie ends in similar fashion to Karinna's character - the inability to decide.

Oh, and the overrated scenes of the city, it's seediness, gloominess, etc, it's really all done in quick montages, or on location sets that doesn't offer you anything more than a sneak peek. Like its characters, the movie's delivery just doesn't make you care for any of them, or their self-inflicted plight.

All said, this movie will probably not get any thumbs up by the ah pek community. What they're primarily looking for, gets glossed over too quickly, bogged down by the characters trying to emote too much. I'm not sure how some can tout the supposedly steamy scenes as hot, unless of course they haven't got it in a long time.
Thordibandis
Thordibandis
Why do American audiences find poverty, ignorance and misery in foreign countries so compelling? Is it the same instinct that makes TV crime/prison shows like "Oz" so popular? Well, "Lower City" lives up to its title. This mindless, plot-free, formulaic piece of Brazilian flesh shots evoked a rare reaction in me, a confessed movie addict. I was outraged that I had wasted my time watching it in the optimistic hope that something of value would develop. In fact, this movie is a Brazilian version of the soft-core sex shows which were easy to find on premium cable stations after 11 PM back in the early 1990s. I fear this confirms my suspicion that the current world trend is toward greater stupidity in the visual media. Lázaro Ramos, as Deco, was the only dim light in this murky opus. Sonia Braga's niece, Alice Braga, the heroine of the piece, certainly played trashy with seemingly natural talent for it. If you have a choice between watching paint dry and watching "Lower City", I would suggest you choose the former.