Film Review: Hard Paint

As part of our ‘Spotlight in Brazil’, we look at a stunning new international release, Hard Paint from Brazilian cinematographer Glauco Firpo, which recently screened at the Sydney Film Festival – review by James Cunningham

This year, Australian Cinematographer Magazine has introduced a small new initiative called ‘Spotlight on Brazil’. The aim is to introduce films shot by Brazilian cinematographers to an Australian audience. In exchange, the Associação Brasileira de Cinematografia (ABC) will showcase work by Australian cinematographers to their audience. Why Brazil? Editor’s prerogative.

We kick off this new initiative with the beautiful Hard Paint, which is featured at the Sydney Film Festival this month. Set in Brazil’s southernmost state capital Porto Alegre. Hard Paint focuses on socially repressed Pedro (Shico Menegat) who only comes out of his shell during chatroom performances. While facing criminal charges, Pedro must grapple with his sister’s sudden decision to move away and leave him behind. Alone in the darkness of his bedroom, featuring electric and vibrant cinematography, Pedro dances covered in neon paint while thousands of strangers watch him via webcam.

A scene from the film ‘Hard Paint’ – DOP Glauco Firpo

Themes of abandonment, loneliness and yearning wash through Hard Paint, a hypnotically intimate character study examining a damaged young man’s double life as an online performer. Filmmakers Marcio Reolon and Filipe Matzembacher are both acting teachers in Brazil. In Hard Paint, they see their hometown of Porto Alegre, as a city of departures. A common problem to people from medium sized-cities all over the world; a large number of youth ends up moving away and what is left for those who remain are the memories, the photos, the Skype conversations.

” The makeshift glamour of many of Firpo’s images implies that colour, like sex, is a luxury of the poor. “

The themes explored in Hard Paint are not just sexual. Human relationships become exclusively virtual, and characters – as in reality – no longer have physical connections to the people around them. Think watching a couple sitting together at a cafe, both on their phones. How often do we seen this?

That is where online performances come into this story. They are a combination of body performance, paid labor and social network, which matches perfectly with what Hard Paint wants to portray. The film depicts body and performance, darkness and colour, the virtual and the material.

A scene from the film ‘Hard Paint’ – DOP Glauco Firpo

Hard Paint is a bold statement, the film fortifies the filmmakers distinctive confluence of work and sex, their sympathetic yet unsentimental depiction of poor and/or marginalised characters, and adds to all this a new level of aesthetic rapture. A large part of which can surely be attributed to an inspired collaboration with Mormaco (2017) cinematographer Glauco Firpo. The makeshift glamour of many of Firpo’s images implies that colour, like sex, is a luxury of the poor.

The painted online shows, with vibrant splashes of colour pulsating in a semi-darkened room, have genuine electricity, amplified by a ultra-modern score. They are beautifully juxtaposed by the stark reality of life outside the safety and security of online life. The proof of that comes after a quiet encounter that leaves much unsaid but is no less emotionally affecting for it. What follows is not the expected desolation but defiant life, but an ending encapsulated in a closing shot that is simply and utterly cinematic perfection.

‘Spotlight on Brazil’ is a initiative from Australian Cinematographer Magazine in association with the Associação Brasileira de Cinematografia (ABC).

James Cunningham is the Editor of Australian Cinematographer Magazine.

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