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Kino on Video presents
Hour of the Star (1986)

"I'm a typist, a virgin, and I like Coca-Cola."
- Macabea (Marcelia Cartaxo)

Review By: Jeff Wilson   
Published: August 31, 2005

Stars: Marcelia Cartaxo, Jose DuMont, Tamara Taxman
Other Stars: Ferdinanda Montenegro
Director: Suzana Amaral

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for Nudity, adult themes
Run Time: 01:35:42
Release Date: September 06, 2005
UPC: 738329041526
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B+C-C- D-

DVD Review

I have to admit this upfront: I didn't know a whole lot about Hour of the Star when I asked to review it. My heart sank when I received it and read the back cover copy, which started off by comparing it to Dancer in the Dark, a film I utterly and totally loathe. I will say that I enjoyed Star far more than Dancer, if only because it was half the length. Seriously, Star wasn't a tortuous experience like sitting through the Von Trier film, but it shares the main thing I hated about the later film: a borderline mentally handicapped main character, who is used and abused by those around her. Macabea, the main character in Star, is literally too dumb to realize her plight most of the time.

Macabea (Marcelia Cartaxo) is 19 years old and newly arrived from northern Brazil, come to make a living in the big city. Unfortunately for her, she's completely ignorant of big city ways, she's a slob, and she has no skills. Oh, and she's ugly. With all that she has going for her, it's a miracle someone doesn't take bigger advantage of her sooner, but she miraculously manages to (barely) hold down a job as a typist and maintain her part of a shared apartment with three other women. Her co-worker Gloria (Tamara Taxman), who is, and let's be kind here, a slut, encourages her to find a man and lose her virginity. Macabea consequently starts painting her nails and otherwise noticing men around her. This leads to a meeting with Olimpico (Jose DuMont), a fellow ex-rural dweller come to the city. He is a steel worker and harbors big ambitions. He plans to get rich, replace all his teeth with gold ones (one down, a mouthful to go), and eventually plans to enter politics. While stranger things have happened, it's pretty plain that Olimpico is going nowhere, much like Macabea. Still, the two begin dating, though Macabea's complete lack of social skills and intelligence quickly grate on Olimpico. In one of the funnier moments between them, she notices some hardware in a store window behind Olimpico, and comments "I like nails and screws, don't you?" A baffled Olimpico understandably has no real response to that.

When Gloria visits an ex-whore turned fortune teller (Fernanda Montenegro), she is urged to purge the residual spiritual stain of her sluttiness and five abortions by stealing the man of one of her friends, which will lead her to happiness. Fortune teller logic! You can see where this is going. The fortune teller, always on the lookout for new marks, answers Gloria's concern for the pain stealing another woman's man will cause by suggesting Gloria send the victim to her for a consultation. After all, she's fixed Gloria's life, right? Macabea in turn goes to the fortune teller, and tragedy (or mercy, perhaps, depending on your viewpoint) ensues shortly thereafter.

The film was adapted from a novel by author Clarice Lispector, who wanted to bring awareness of this underclass of uneducated drones to her middle and upper class readership. The portrayal of that milieu is so unappealing that I can see many members of her audience being completely turned off by it, but beneath the appalling conditions are people simply looking out for themselves, desperately trying to reach something better, even if they don't understand what it is they want. Macabea's lifeline to that better world is the radio station she constantly listens to, and some of the best scenes in the film come from her reactions to what she hears, be it The Blue Danube waltz or an aria from Donizetti's opera The Elixir of Love. We can see Macabea ever so slowly begin to see the larger world out there, and we can understand the task in front of her, as well as what society has done to her in placing her in that position to begin with.

Marcelia Cartaxo's performance as Macabea is superb if offputting, with every uncouth act and dully delivered line contributing to the reality of her character. The rest of the cast is equally good at the tasks set before them. Director Suzana Amaral's only misstep is the woefully corny finale, which I presume was meant to evoke tears or similar empathic feelings, but instead comes off as laugh-inducing, and not in a good way.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Taken from a very shabby-looking source, Kino's DVD transfer suffers from rampant dirt, vertical lines, and speckling. The colors look okay for the most part, and the full-screen transfer otherwise is watchable, if rather ugly. White, burned-in English subtitles are on occasion a bit hard to read, but they are legible and free of errors.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The mono track presented here is in about as homely a condition as the image, with occasional light static audible beneath dialogue. The film, which appears to have been more or less post-dubbed, has some echo-laden moments in the dialogue as well. Like the image, not pleasant, but not so bad as to be an impediment to the viewing experience.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Stills gallery
Extras Review: A brief collection of stills from the film and its shoot are included. That's it.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Based on a popular Brazilian novel, Hour of the Star is not an easy film to watch, but the acting is excellent. The main character is grating, but a fairly painful story has rewards for the viewer. The DVD is fairly low-rent, with ugly A-V quality and no extras of much value.


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