Bingo: the King of the Mornings – Film Review by Aisling Foster
Director: Daniel Rezende
Starring: Vladimir Brichta as Bingo.
The energy which pulses through this wonderful Brazilian film is like the country itself, a febrile, win-or-lose-everything panorama of vast skyscrapers and endless coastline. Augusto is a product of that energy, a handsome, thirty-something soft porn actor desperate to break into the cut-throat world of television drama. Divorced from his wife, a successful soap star with whom he shares custody of their son, he lives with his mother, a sad, once-famous stage actress, who, like everyone else who loves him, does what they can to encourage his dream.
When that big chance arrives on morning tv it is as Bingo the clown, demanding a total head-to-toe makeover which obliterates every distinguishing feature of this sweetly complex individual. Indeed, when Augusto and his family are sworn to secrecy about Bingo’s real identity, he finds himself trapped behind the mask, increasingly distanced from reality as money and cocaine blur the pain of what has been lost. Worse, as Bingo’s fame increases, the biggest loser is Gabriel, Augusto’s beloved son, now too often forgotten by his tormented father and unable to share his insider information about the clown with his Bingo-crazy friends.
Everything in this film is big and brash and highly coloured. Set in the 1980s, that decade’s male-dominated, price-of-everything values are present in the detail, from huge shoulder pads and women as playthings to the flashy cars in the street. But there is warmth there too, especially in the love between family members, which, when lost, leaves a distinct chill in its wake. Despite the film’s inevitable slippage into catastrophe, its set pieces are often enormously funny, as when Augusto’s audition retranslates the clown’s corny American script into unadulterated smut. Comedy can cut to tragedy, too, as in the moment when our hero’s insatiable coke-sniffing releases a sudden dribble of real blood from beneath the clown’s red pom pom nose.
Truth being stranger than fiction, Augusto’s wild trajectory is based on the real life experience of the Brazilian actor, Arlindo Barreto. As Bozo the clown he followed a similar curve through celebrity and drugs to reincarnation as a travelling pastor. According to Wikipedia, he is now a contented man, having rediscovered happiness in a simpler life. And perhaps that is the real secret of this film which, despite so much hurt, ends on a different kind of high, suggesting with a crazy, clownish certainty that just to keep on going out there, laughing and sharing, is what makes us all feel truly alive.