Madame Sata

Madame Sata, aka Joao Francisco, was a flamboyant personality who lived in the Lapa district of Rio earlier in the century. Before donning the personality of Madame Sata, Francisco (Lazaro Romero, The Three Marias, Woman on Top) was a pimp, outlaw, and random other illegal things. He was a homosexual, which is not an easy thing to do in the 1920s, but considering the company he kept it was probably nothing outrageous. Madame Sata the film, written and directed by Karim Ainouz, Behind the Sun) tracks Francisco's life pretty much up to the point where he becomes Madame Sata. In other words, just as the film begins to get interesting, it ends.

Madame Sata is a chore to sit through, mainly because it feels like nothing more than an explanation of the man who became Sata. However, since nobody knows who Madame Sata is, there is no real context to place the film in. Instead, it plays more like a couple of vignettes from Francisco's life. He lives Laurita (Marcelia Cartaxo, Amelia, The Patriot), one of his prostitutes who has a young daughter, and Taboo (Flavio Bauraqui), a young gay prostitute who owes him money. He has a huge crush on Renainho (Felipe Marques), who may or may not want to return his affections.

The fact that for the most part, the film is dull should not detract from Romero's performance. Sata just wants to live his life. If he works, he wants to be paid, and he wants the people that owe him money to pay him back. He doesn't want to bother people, but his big problem is his temper. He bristles at the slightest insult, and demands that people apologize, else he will beat the crap out of them. His fierce temper gets him in trouble repeatedly, and is the cause of many of his problems. Romero blazes across the screen, switching moods at the drop of a hat.

One of his jobs is in a nightclub, where, when nobody is around, he dresses up in women's clothing and sings. This is one of the few things that seem to bring him joy, and sets in motion the notion of Madame Sata. Here is where the film begins to hold the viewer's interest. One can see the idea of Sata germinating in his mind, and it slowly begins to come to fruition. Sata is a colorful, flamboyant singer, a man dressed as a woman in colorful Carnivale regalia. Oddly enough, Francisco's sexuality is usually not an issue. Typically, it's the fact that he is from the slums, a pimp, or is doing something illegal. Otherwise, Madame Sata has a lot of good atmosphere, but little else.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 43 minutes, Portuguese with English subtitles, Not Rated but contains nudity, sexual situations, violence, and some language, an easy NC-17.

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