Bufo & Spallanzani | Chicago Reader

Bufo & Spallanzani

Based on a novel by Rubem Fonseca, this sleek Brazilian mystery taps into the postmodern recycling of noir conventions: a detective in Rio, investigating a woman's apparent suicide, suspects foul play on the part of her rich, ruthless husband and her novelist lover, and the lover's new story, about an insurance investigator looking into a death that may have involved witchcraft, plays out on the screen as well. In the tradition of Paul Auster, Friedrich D├╝rrenmatt, and Manuel Puig, the two story lines comment on each other as well as on the detective genre. The film's symbolism is ambiguous at best (toads, which continue mating even when one of their limbs is set afire, represent mad passion), but director Flavio R. Tambellini gives the whole thing an elegant look, his shadowy foregrounds and bright backgrounds inverting the usual noir scheme. You may get lost in the middle, but you won't be bored. In Portuguese with subtitles. 96 min.

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