Friday, December 7, 2012

Movie with Abe: Heleno

Directed by José Henrique Fonseca
Released December 7, 2012

When a person’s first name serves as the title of a movie, it indicates several possibilities. The first is that it will serve as an intimate biography, getting to know its primary protagonist well enough to call him or her by his or her given name. The second is that said protagonist is known to all by his or her first name, quite a feat considering the frequency of many names. In the case of “Heleno,” the story of a famous Brazilian footballer Heleno de Freitas, both are true. To his country and to sports fans, he could simply be described as the unmatchable Heleno.

Another reason for Heleno’s familiar moniker is the arrogance and overconfidence displayed by the legendary athlete. Fully cognizant of the skill he possessed in his chosen sport, Heleno embraced his fortune, never shy about aggrandizing himself and eager to chastise others for not recognizing his greatness. Heleno is, to the best of the film’s ability, portrayed as a sympathetic figure, truly in love with the sport and desperate for every opportunity to experience the thrill of being on the field. He’s most accurately described as a tragic hero, overcome by hubris and the inability to accept the inevitable decline of his health.

“Heleno” is not a sports movie in the conventional sense. It’s better categorized as a biopic, chronicling Heleno’s life story. Shot in black and white, the film has a stark feel, firmly rooted alternately in his idealized prime and his more desolate later life, in which the scattered functionality of his mind and body demonstrates just how much cognizance he has lost. It’s a compelling and melancholy portrait of a fallen star.

Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro should be most familiar to American audiences for playing villain Xerxes in “300” and for his ill-fated part as Paulo on the third season of “Lost.” He throws himself completely into the role of Heleno, imbuing him with an immutable energy and spirit, walking into a room and instantly charming multiple women with his smile. His performance makes the film, and he’s ably supported by the rest of the cast. Like Heleno, however, ultimately the story is all about him, and this decently engaging film takes the same approach.


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