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Director As God

April 12, 1987

How long, Lord, how long?

Or will we ever be free of the curse of Cahiers du Cinema magazine that has brainwashed movie reviewers to believe that theme, story, dialogue--in short, everything , in a movie springs from the head of the Great God DIRECTOR?

Michael Wilmington begins his review of "Opera do Malandro" by telling us that "writer-director Ruy Guerra has a fascinating idea: making a Brazilian "Threepenny Opera," transplanting the old Brecht-Weill ambiance to Rio de Janeiro and the malandros underworld of the early '40s" (" 'Opera do Malandro': A Bit of Glitz With Grit," March 26).'

Sure, he did, Michael: Just as John Huston had the fascinating idea of making a film musical about a '30s and '40s comic strip character named Orphan Annie; just as Richard Attenborough had the fascinating idea of making a film musical in which dancers at a play audition tell about their lives in dance (let's call it "A Chorus Line," OK?); just as Milos Forman had the fascinating idea of making a film about the envy of a mediocre composer named Salieri toward the composer whose middle name was Amadeus. . . .

Since Wilmington admits later in the review that the film's "source" is a stage play by "one of Brazil's most popular singer-composers," you might think it might occur to him that the person who had the "fascinating idea" was Chico Buarque, who wrote the book, songs and lyrics, and who worked with Guerra (and another screenwriter) in adapting the work to the screen.

But no: the auteur theory settles everything.


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