Pros: attractive people often shedding clothes
Cons: underdeveloped characters and plot, inadequately lit
I think that the Brazilian riverboat movie "Cidade Baixa" (Lower City, 2005) intended to say something about race and sexuality, but that director Sérgio Machado and his co-writer Beto Villares could not decide what it was they wanted to say. Or at least how to say it.
Friends since childhood, the dark-skinned Deco (Lázaro Ramos) and lighter-skinned Naldinho (Wagner Moura) co-own a boat and are content with the lot until they rescue and are bewitched by battered prostitute Karinna (Alice Braga, City of God). Which one will she choose? Wait, is the choice hers in a society governed by machismo? The men fight it out. There is also a cockfight to the death between a black rooster and a white one, with an enthusiastic audience. Subtle, eh?
Although sometimes underlit— shot with hand-held camera under "natural light" often at night— Toca Seabra's cinematography shows the tough, gritty underworld of Salvador, Bahia, the bars and streets in which the characters live and screw (do I mean love?) The "natural light" is sometimes neon, sometimes strobe, and sometimes nothing discernible.
The three leads throb, but the movie has nothing to add to the "eternal triangle" story except Bahia locations. There is a robbery subplot that is uneasily grafted onto the triangle story. Any homoeroticism in the Deco-Naldinho relationship is invisible to the audience and unrecognized by them. They fight over Karinna, but it is not clear to me that she is going to stay, that is, that her coming between them may be temporary. That is to say that the ending is quite inconclusive.
I streamed the movie off Netflix.com, so I have not seen the theatrical trailer which is the only DVD bonus features and am not sure about the audio quality of a physical DVD. I like the music
The movie was produced by Walter Salles, director of "Central Station", on which Sérgio Machado served as his assistant. (and "The Motorcycle Diaries").