Central Station(SE)/A-,B+

Columbia/1998/106m/ANA 2.35

         You can feel the great passion of the filmmakers in Central Station. Depictions of the harsh world are never overblown. This unusual story gets going with the hard-edged poignancy of reality. In the crowded central train station of Rio de Janeiro people move with an impersonal frenzy. Amidst the pushing crowds, a woman sits at a writing table and a line of people pay her to write letters to their dear ones. Close-ups of the patrons telling the woman what to write are beautifully telling. The world of Central Station unfolds with immediacy and elegance. 

Sharing a break in the trip. ©Columbia

       The main characters of Central Station are introduced right at the table in the station. Dora, the letter writer, records the words of her patrons with a certain detachment. Josuť arrives at the table with his mother who has a letter written to a long absent father. They return a second time to change the letter and thus it establishes their importance. What unfolds from this meeting in the anonymous train station is anything but anonymous. Central Station takes you deep into Brazil, from the city to the countryside, in the company of two wonderful people. Itís unusual drama and unusual filmmaking.
Walter Salles directs the screenplay by Marcos Bernstein and Joao Emanuel Carneiro with wonderful sensitivity.  Itís interesting to note Sallesí choice of 2.35 scope aspect ratio for Central Station. Personal and small dramas often benefit from use of the closer 1.33, but Central Station is not just about these two characters. Itís about Brazil and the landscape takes on a great significance. The scenes of Rio are amazingly powerful, yet as Josuť and Dora travel across the country on a bus, the landscapes present magnificent visages.  Sallesí camera is free from artifice as well. His unique perspectives lend the weight of truth to Central Station. Whether he chooses to follow his character in conversation from the back or frame them within the bounds of the background, Salles understands instinctively the language of film. 
     Young Vinicius de Oliveira who plays Josuť is simply amazing. The young boy, who was found by Salles as a shoeshine boy in Rio, brings honest emotional intensity to this role of a boy on the journey of his life. The wonderful Fernanda Montenegro is Dora. Her subtle command of her thespian tools makes the changes in her character almost imperceptible and totally natural. Salles is great with his actors. The small parts are perfectly cast and the actors totally believable.
     I am delighted Columbia made Central Station a special editon. The audio commentary features a warm variety of observations from Walter Salles, Fernanda Montenegro and producer Arthur Cohn. Cohn sites the three premises his mentor Vittorio de Sica gave him:  One has to cast a film with authentic people. You must shoot authentically where the story is centered. Never to listen to advice. You can see this in the filmmaking. 
     The widescreen anamorphic DVD has a warm, intimate look. Colors are too orange, though this does emphasize the emotional feeling of the film. The image is consistently sharp. The panoramas have excellent depth. Contrast is not dramatic, emphasizing the character within their environment. The score by
Jaques Morelembaum is nicely recorded and enriches the film experience. The yellow English subtitles appear both on and just below the image. 



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