The fly in Geneva

Image: Adir Sodré
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By HENRY BURNETT*

Comment on the documentary “Raul: the beginning, the end and the middle”

Distance can be a gift for some artists. Death, a redemption. In June of this year, Raul Seixas would have turned 75. The film directed by Walter Carvalho, co-directed by Evaldo Mocarzel and Leonardo Gudel, Raul: the beginning, the end and the middle, from 2012 (available on Netflix), remains an unsurpassable document on its history, and points out important ways to understand the place of crazy beauty in the multiple Brazilian music scene.

Although it maintains the traditional line of the best documentaries, with interviews and archival footage, many of which have never been seen before, the film masterfully remakes, over its more than two hours, the story of an artist who was a legend in life, but above all helps to understand why he became a myth after he died.

From the history of the rock club still in Bahia, when Elvis was the great reference for the boys, passing through the ex-wives and daughters who live in the USA, producers, friends, musicians and composers, the testimonies of the film can make us believe many times that it was always like this, that Raul was idolized and loved.

But the directors took care to show that the singer's aesthetic transgression was a rare event in the history of our music and his aesthetic-political legacy something that cannot be forgotten. I would say that this place of the artist is not to be confused with what we are used to calling “marginal” when we think of some names in our music.

Raul knew where he was. When he states in a scene that he did not belong to the evolutionary line of Brazilian music (Caetano's famous phrase) and starts to mimic bossa nova mannerisms on stage, we know that his place is that of singularity and irony. There has never been a transgressor like him among us, this is the main teaching of the film. The key word to understand this is assimilation. While great avant-garde movements produced, after their heyday, integrated artists, who today occupy their natural place in the canon (without any demerit), Raul was and will remain an apocalyptic, along with Tom Zé and a few others, who never gave in to the “game”. ” between art and market – there are those who do it with mastery.

Fans will feast on archival footage that showcases the aesthetic richness of their lonely revolution. But something in the film goes beyond this, let's say, commonplace of music documentaries. Two narratives stand out in the reconstruction of her figure, one female and the other musical, which often interpenetrate. It is about them that I would like to make some remarks.

The musical hardly needs comment. Brazilian rock has its maximum expression in Raul, aesthetically, musically and poetically. If there are heirs, and there are, he would be ashamed of their ideological swerves towards conservatism and their ridiculous regrets. In those who maintained the accuracy of the example, new paths were developed from it, for various reasons that do not fit here.

The second narrative perspective seems to me to be the great differential of the film: the protagonism of women. Throughout the film, this line is shown as a descriptive option that defines an image, to a certain extent, contrary to the excessive artist that we encounter again as his career develops – the realization of the walking metamorphosis that he extolled.

In fact, they are the ones who tell their affective story, or at least it is through them that the narrative thread creates a parallel with the properly musical path presented by musicians, producers and partners, and which, in theory, would be the main one. Apparently there are two ways of telling the hero's life. It's as if there were two Rauls: one of excess and the other of affection.

There are no precedents for musical revolutions fueled by milk, but Raul was an alcoholic, let's not romanticize this fact, almost all of his worst moments were the result of the self-destructive relationship with drink that he maintained throughout his life. What was worst and best he experienced was the effect of this relationship he maintained with alcohol and that the film does not bother to camouflage. By the way, one of the merits of the document is that it does not idealize its object. Decadence stalks the artist at key moments in his career, but he defended himself against it with the strength of his music.

If in other music documentaries, such as Vinicius, by Miguel Faria Jr., although in an elegant way and in a blague tone, we can notice the discomfort of the women with Tom and Vinicius's drunkenness, in an anthological scene, in Raul the direct testimonies of his ex-wives at no point in the film allow to denote any kind of resentment, not even about the conflicting relationships that eventually involved more people. Time and again they are silent, omitting to remember the past, but without leaving even a trace of hurt. A loving husband and father is the image that remains.

It remains to remember Paulo Coelho's central role in the documentary. His testimony is long, humorous, surprising at times, but a scene recorded at his home is the highlight of the film. In Geneva, where he lives, “where there are no flies”, one decides to appear and disturb the interviewee's peace. The sequence is laughable, especially for those who believe in spirits, like him.

*Henry Burnett is a professor of philosophy at Unifesp. Author, among other books, of Nietzsche, Adorno and a bit of Brazil (Unifesp Publisher).

Reference


Raul Seixas – The Beginning, the End and the Middle

Brazil, 2012, Documentary, 130 min.

Directed by: Walter Carvalho and Evaldo Mocarzel

Testimonials by Paulo Coelho, Nelson Motta, Tom Zé, Pedro Bial and Caetano Veloso.

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