Intriguing and amusing just as Machado de Assis works
16 June 2019
Machado de Assis is a writer whose works either being novels or short stories are all foccused on subtle movements and details, and also for being artistic and complex works that is more concerned in providing more questions to readers than actually giving some form of answer. That's a fact that can anger readers or it can make them more intrigued - this device is more present in the novels rather than in the short stories. In "A Missa do Galo" ("Rooster's Mass") everything looks so simple yet it is quite intimidating, subtle, mysterious to the point of making you anxious in knowing what's the real deal and what's gonna happen next. I haven't read the short, only got a brief description about the plot which sort of ruined my view from this short film... but in a way it was better that this happened because it made the film more accessible and I could compare both medias based on the informations I had and what the film presented.

Nelson Pereira dos Santos'film adaptation of the tale has the same basis but it goes in a different way. The teeange Nogueira (Olney São Paulo Jr.) is a country boy visiting his uncle (Nildo Parente) in Brazil's capital during Christmas time. His most expected event of the evening is to watch the mass of which he believes it'll be a spectacular event compared to what he had seen back in his hometown. The movie opens with those characters, along with with the uncle's wife Conceição (Isabel Ribeiro), her mother (Elza Gomes) and a friend of the family (Sergio Otero) who got promoted to work with the uncle. Dinner's over and the master of the house decides to go to the theater on Christmas Eve - quite strange and others get suspicious but as Conceição's mother tells her the man isn't going there, he's gonna visit a mistress.

Everyone's gone from the room except for Nogueira, who anxiously awaits for the midnight hour to go to the mass. He's all alone just reading his book when he is joined by the uncle's wife who is sleepless. That's the core of the film: their lone company in the room which goes from conversations on literature, dreams and what appears to be an incredible sense of desire and love they try to show to one another; there's something in the air they can't exactly quite put their finger on it. Santos film removes the narrator's figure (which is Nogueira as an older man telling about an event from his youth) and makes it all more mysterious in making the audience think what's the real intentions of the main characters. Machado would be proud of this film, and I think he would say it was an improvement from what he wrote since in a final analysis, despite being different medias, the way each artist worked the effect was the same in creating some suspense, some tenderness, presenting a plot twist (it revolves around other character, I won't spoil for you) and at the end we're both asking ourselves about the possibilities and outcomes of that lovely encounter in between aunt and nephew. And bear in mind that the ultimate goal is conquered but the surprise along the way is what changes Nogueira's life and his view of people and the world.

"A Missa do Galo" is also worthy seeing due to its impecable art-direction recreating the early 1890's with great precision despite being a minor production filmed in just one location (and for 1980's standards is really impressive) and the amazing acting of main stars Isabel Ribeiro and the young Olney São Paulo Jr. - who vanished from screen after this, a pity since he had a very captivating and spiritual presence, playing this confident and bright teen, very eloquent and wise for someone with a tender age. Both actors chemistry is fantastic, very delighful and filled with nuances and subtle moves and gestures from the words they say or the things they don't say which makes us imagine what goes on through their heads...but their faces reveal a lot more to the point of leaving viewers anxious for their next act. A fine piece of filmmaking. 9/10
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