The Man Who Copied (O Homem Que Copiava)


Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
The Man Who Copied (O Homem Que Copiava)
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

Andre (Lazaro Ramos) is 20-years old, a high school dropout and a photocopier at G. Gomide Bookstore and Stationers. He is attracted to a young woman, Sylvia (Leandra Leal), who he clandestinely spies upon from his adjacent apartment. This attraction will soon put Andre in desperate need of $38 and force the young man into dangerous actions in “The Man Who Copied.”

Robin:
We meet Andre as he moves through the checkout line at a local supermarket. He obviously does not have enough money to pay for everything in his basket. He picks through his purchases, repeatedly insisting that a box of matches is an absolute must, and gives up necessities instead. Next we see him, Andre is burning a rather large pile of bank notes and thus begins a charming little tale of secret love and the various schemes he concocts to make the precious $38.

Writer/director Jorge Furtado has created a clever spiral of intrigued cloaked in the guise of a love story as he innocently brings Andre and Silvia together in the clothing shop where she works. The lynchpin of the story is a chenille dressing gown that costs the aforementioned 38 bucks. But this seemingly miniscule sum might as well be millions for all the chance Andre will have to get it. How the copier goes about getting this money starts off slowly but accelerates into bigger and more dangerous plans – that work. But, not without a whole bunch of new problems.

The rags-to-riches story is fraught with danger as Andre takes serious chances just to keep from losing everything he has gained. This is where the tale takes unconventional direction and the characters flesh out completely as Andre and Sylvia find love and hope. There isn’t much that either would stop at to be together and, boy, they really want to be together. Intrigue, greed and betrayal dog them along the way but they are equal to the challenges and love will win in the end.

The spiral of intrigues that make up “The Man Who Copied” reaches over-the-top proportions in the end and may rep a bit of overzealous plotting by Furtado but he never fails to keep your interest through the outrageous finale. I don’t want to go into the details over the various ways Andre schemes and connives to get the money to get the girl. It’s the fun of watching the movie just to see the elaborate plot unfold around the love story.

Ramos and Leal are the center of the film but there are nice supporting characters, too. Luana Piovani is sexy and funny as Andre’s workmate, Marines. Her ongoing relationship with Cardosa (Pedro Cardosa), where she’s willing to do, almost, anything for him has an amusing twist as the bombshell’s secret is revealed. Cardos as Cardos is amusing in his passion for Marines and willingness to give up his coveted cigarettes. Carlos Cunha Filho, as Andre’s friend Antunes, fills a small but important role where betrayal, greed and violent comeuppance come into play.

The production, shot mostly in the southern Brazil city of Porto Alegre,” is colorful, briskly paced and clever, mixing in Andre’s drawings as a part of the story. Though South American in origin, “The Man Who Copied” has a universal feel that, language notwithstanding, could be from anywhere. This bodes well for the film’s auteur, Jorge Furtado, and gives him a good calling card on the international film scene. I give it a B.

Laura:
Nineteen year old André (Lázaro Ramos, "Madame Sata," "Carandiru") was thrown out of school and holds a low wage job in his home town of Porto Alegre.  He likes to tell girls he's a photocopier operator, but they know what that means - no money.  When $38 lies between him and the girl of his dreams, André perseveres until he has made a pretty reliable replica of a fifty dollar bill in "The Man Who Copied."

Writer/director Jorge Furtado's unique film explores the importance of money for those who do not have it.  This thoroughly likeable movie loses points near the end when its four main characters unexpectedly resort to murder, but it achieves lift once more with its final scene.  Don't let the unwieldy title throw you - "The Man Who Copied" is unusual, deft and (mostly) delightful.

André works in the back of Gomide's (Heitor Schmidt) shop by day and watches his neighbor Sílvia (Leandra Leal) with binoculars by night.  He splits the rent with his mom and has little left over from his $302 monthly salary (he saved for a year to get those binoculars!).  One day he springs for a bus ride so he can follow Silvia and finds her working in a boutique.  Calling on his mother's birthday as a reason for being there, she shows him a robe which he can ill afford, but André cannot figure out any other way to approach her.  His buddy Cardoso (Pedro Cardoso, "Four Days in September," "Bossa Nova") asks André to create more, which they launder at the local lottery outlet, but André's first gift to Sílvia reveals a horrible truth which makes him spiral out of control.

Furtado sets his agenda as his opening credits roll.  In a comically drawn-out scene, André negotiates with a supermarket checkout girl to realign his purchases to fit his funds.  He's relatively happy with his lot in life, rejecting his drug and gun dealing friend Feitosa's (Júlio Andrade) offer of selling pot because he loves his freedom more, but Sílvia and her situation (her slimy stepfather Antunes (Carlos Cunha) steals from her and peeps through her keyhole) give him moral blinders.

The same goes for Cardoso, whom André meets as the date of his sexy coworker Marinês (Luana Piovani).  Using André's ploy, Cardoso wears a tie and says he's 'in antiques' when in actuality he works in a junk shop.  Marinês rejects him outright, saying he'll never be rich or sexy enough and besides she hates his smoking.  Cardoso wisely quits the nicotine because his alliance with André proves fortuitous indeed.

Furtado hasn't just made a romantic crime comedy, though.  His script is full of social commentary.  His two main characters are from single parent families.  The importance of education is stressed (André learns much from the material he xeroxes and a Shakespearean poem brings him closer to Sílvia).  What's disturbing is that Furtado seems to make allowances for counterfeiting, armed robbery and murder as rewarding if the perpetrators are likeable enough and carry a guardian angel.  Love (and in Cardoso's case, lust) justifies all.

Still, the story is presented inventively.  As André describes how he's come to know Sílvia's bedroom via the different angles of a mirrored dresser drawer, a collage of those images is composited on screen.  André is also an aspiring cartoonist, whose rendition of himself with 'Granny Doctrine,' a character he's created with a photocopy of Eleanor Roosevelt's head and animated a la South Park's Canadians, is used for flashbacks. Animated collages reminiscent of Terry Gilliam's Python work also punctuate the action.  Furtado doesn't only cross his characters paths but crosses other elements of his film to humorous effect as well - when André discovers that the fat neighbor he watches dancing in an apartment below Sílvia's listens to Creedance Clearwater Revival, the music is immediately used for a violent robbery scene.  André's interior monologue narration, which accompanies the film's first third or so, is stylistically excessive, yet ends well before it begins to seem overdone.

Lázaro Ramos makes André almost cuddly, a true romantic hero.  Leandra Leal and Luana Piovani, both from Brazilian television, alternately play sweet and sexy. Tim Roth lookalike Cardoso adds humorous undertones.

"The Man Who Copied" ends with a neat twist that reveals that André's criminal undertakings, while lucrative, were hardly necessary.  It is unclear whether Furtado is going for irony here, but while his point is a little clouded, there is no doubt of his creative ability.

B
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