“Nothing makes sense in this story.”
While the quotation above may scare some people off, there is a great history of stories that don’t make sense, for example, Lewis Carroll’s stories about Alice. Aly Muritiba’s Jesus Kid may not be a trip to Wonderland, but it is an interesting trip nonetheless.
Eugênio (Paulo Miklos) has written a load of western novels featuring a gunslinger known as the Jesus Kid. (For the record, the Kid had a mother named Mary, a father named Joseph, and twelve siblings named for the Apostles.) He meets with a film producer and director, thinking they want a movie about Jesus Kid. Instead, the director wants a movie about a writer locked in a hotel for three months trying to write a screenplay. In the discussion the director references the Coen Brothers’ Barton Fink and a passing mention of Quentin Tarantino. Eugênio quickly rejects this outlandish idea.
He has a new project ready, but when he goes to his publisher, he learns that westerns are officially out—the government doesn’t like them. Instead, the publisher is changing to Christian books—especially those that support the government and its Christian nationalist ideals. In fact, the government wants Eugênio to ghost write the president’s biography. Eugênio is not sympathetic to the government and turns them down. But soon, mysterious men in black are following him and his apartment is torn apart. He quickly agrees to the movie script to hide out. So he finds himself locked in the hotel while he writes the script about a writer locked in a hotel writing a script. Yeah, it’s getting a bit meta.
Everyone he meets he sees as a character and names them accordingly. But he struggles to come up with a story to put these characters in. Then Jesus Kid (Sergio Marone) shows up and begins writing, starting with the romantic interest part of the story between Eugênio and Nurse (Maureen Miranda), which may be threesome involving Jesus. The things that get written come to pass. Things are not only meta, but a bit of fantasy/dreamworld as well. We’re never quite sure what is reality and what is fantasy.
The producer and director want to see what’s written, but it’s all so strange. The bodies (remember the reference to Tarantino) begin to pile up—or do they? The government tracks Eugênio to the hotel. Add to this a subplot about a bellhop (whom Eugênio only refers to as “Chet” in further reference to Barton Fink) and a disappearing bathtub plug, the IICC (Ideological Integrity Control Center), death (or not) by high heel, mixed with a few other strange subplots, and the rabbit hole beckons us.
The screenplay that is being written (and lived out?) may not make sense, but neither does the reality outside the hotel that Eugênio is fleeing. The super-patriotic, pro-gun Christian nationalist culture he experiences in Brazil (unfortunately it seems far too familiar here as well), may seem just as ludicrous as the idea of a fictional gunslinger coming in to save the day (which he does frequently). This film uses the unreality of an absurd world to point out the absurdity of the real world.
This may not be the Coen Brothers or Tarantino or any of the other references scattered through the story, but like them, it takes what we seem to know and twists it around into something that reflects the farce that surrounds us.
Jesus Kid is available through Virtual Cinema and VOD.
Photos courtesy of IndiePix Films