Academic journal article Chasqui

Once upon a Time ... There Was a Rude, Loud, and Foul-Moutheed Princess, or the Carnvalesque-Grotesque in Carlota Joaquina: Princesa Do Brasil

Academic journal article Chasqui

Once upon a Time ... There Was a Rude, Loud, and Foul-Moutheed Princess, or the Carnvalesque-Grotesque in Carlota Joaquina: Princesa Do Brasil

Article excerpt

The poster child of the Retomada or Brazilian Film Renaissance, Carla Camurati's Carlota Joaquina: Princesa do Brasil (1995) is a historical satire about the arrival of the Portuguese court in Brazil. Despite being done on a slim budget, the film brought more than a million spectators out of their homes and into the movie theaters, an unprecedented number for Brazilian movies. Indeed, in her attempt to illustrate that "a historia e a ficcao do homem" in a provocative, unpredictable, and highly entertaining fashion, Carla Camurati--the film's director, writer, producer, researcher, and distributor--took the industry and Brazilians alike by storm (Villalta 239). As critic Luiz Zanin Oricchio notes, "com Carlota voltouse a falar do cinema nacional" (26).

The film is set in Spain, Portugal and Brazil during the latter decades of the 18th century and the first two decades of the 19th century. It portrays the life of a real historical figure, the Spanish infante Carlota Joaquina Teresa de Borbon y Borbon, who was married off by her family to the Portuguese prince Dom Joao when she was shy often years. Her marriage meant a contract between two nations: it constituted the efforts on the part of the Spanish crown to resume a political liaison with the neighboring Portugal. The film follows Carlota Joaquina's journey from the Spanish court to Portugal, later to Brazil and eventually back to Portugal, as well as her journey from childhood to womanhood. In a framing story, a Scotsman sitting on the seashore narrates Carlota Joaquina's story to his ten-year-old-female cousin, Yolanda. His narration is triggered by finding a bottle with a text supposedly written by Salvador Dali, in which he explains his reasons for never visiting Brazil. The Scotsman volunteers to tell Yolanda a story about Carlota Joaquina, the princess of Brazil. As though it were a fairy-tale, the Scotsman proceeds to the storytelling, sparing no details and frequently dwelling on the sexual as well as scatological aspects of the lives of the characters. The film goes back and forth between the setting by the seashore with Yolanda and the storyteller and Carlota Joaquina's life.

Despite unparalleled success at the box office, critics' reviews of Carlota Joaquina have been mixed. Darien J. Davies, for instance, calls it "a visual feast" but notes that the film displays "a Brazilian tendency to downplay racial and sexual conflict and a refusal to take oppression too seriously" (937). I disagree with Davies' opinion of the film, as it undermines Brazilians' awareness of their country's past and present social issues. Nonetheless, Davies draws some intriguing connections between the political situation depicted in the film and the Brazil of the 1990's when she claims that "the film says as much about the present as it does about the past," an idea also shared by critics Luis Carlos Villalta and Luiz Zanin Oricchio (Davies 938). In fact, Zanin Oricchio concludes that "Carlota aparece ... como base satirica para explicar um pais que nao de certo" (41). (1) On a different note, Francisca L Nogueira de Azevedo observes that Carlota Joaquina is a historical film that does not teach anything new but captures and exploits ideas already rooted in the audience's mind, thus reinforcing stereotypes ingrained in the Brazilian collective imaginary. Along those lines, scholars Stephanie Dennison and Lisa Shaw have even seen interesting connections between Camurati's film and the chanchadas--popular, Brazilian musical comedies that exploited vulgarity. They base their assertion on the fact that the film exhibits traits also found in the chanchadas, like the clash of cultures, making fun of stupidity, accents, the elite, the avarice of the Portuguese, and the abundance of ethnic jokes, among other features. Notwithstanding the fact that the chanchadas could also be political and they did poke fun at ethnic groups, placing Carlota Joaquina in the chanchada tradition fails to acknowledge its critical stance towards issues such as the fetishization of history or the construction of gender. …

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