Paulo Emilio and “marginal” cinema



Considerations on the film criticism of Paulo Emilio Salles Gomes


Paulo Emilio Salles Gomes, at the end of his career, paid tribute to Cinema Novo, despite being criticized for not assuming his share of leadership. Of the great critics of the 1950s, he was the one who made the leap to the modernity of the 1960s with the greatest agility. Going further, he managed to land in the 1970s, facing head-on with his critical tools the delirious desiring machine of Marginal Cinema (Sganzerla, Bressane, Tonacci, Rosemberg, Neville, Reichenbach, Jairo Ferreira and others).

Looking back on his meeting with the Cinemanovista generation (Glauber, Cacá, Joaquim Pedro, Hirszman, Saraceni, in the core), perhaps a broader critique of the film that marked the turn of the Latin American movement and cinema was effectively lacking. , God and the Devil in the Land of the Sun1963, carried out precisely at the moment when he was involved with young people. It is what seemed to be natural in 1963/1964, although in those years he was already writing less in the Literary Supplement of the State of São Paulo, involved with other interests.

It should be noted, however, that Paulo Emilio was a critic attuned to the sighs of the new production from its first glimpses. He stands out in relation to other contemporary critics, such as Alex Viany, heavier to follow the turn and out of focus when he decides to join body and soul. Or even the Minas Gerais critique of Film Magazine (with the exception of Mauricio Gomes Leite) who, to the astonishment of the young Glauber when he passed through Minas, still discussed dilemmas between the script and the 'specific film' (in the second phase of Magazine, the tune with young cinema is stronger).

Paulo Emilio, evolving from the 'master' Sussekind (as he called him), manages to quickly cross the bridge in the relationship with the new cinema (which is not something obvious), jumping between generations. It is important to highlight the leap, as critics with strong roots in the modernity of the 1930s were slow to tune in to the ebullition of the great moment of Brazilian cinema, already fermenting since the mid-1950s along the trails of realism.

From a generation right after the Chaplin Club group, Paulo Emilio was, according to his own testimony, taken to the cinema by the hands of his friend Plinio Sussekind, in Paris before the war. It is remarkable, therefore, the ease with which he disengages himself from the shackles of silent cinema. This perhaps occurs due to another stay in the French capital, from 1946 onwards, when he came into contact with the realist criticism of the first Notebooks du Cinema (founded in April 1951), particularly André Bazin, who he met again in Brazil at the São Paulo International Festival in 1954, a date that coincided with his definitive return to the country. It is also from his first stay in Paris, and from his contact with Henri Langlois, who inherited (and brought here, in the mid-1950s) the idea of ​​cinema as an art worthy of preservation, channeling his undeniable capacity for articulation into the creation of the Cinematheque. Brazilian.

When Cinema Novo explodes, Paulo Emilio will therefore be at its 'front' as a mature critic, with a unique space for reflection (due to its scope and repercussion) in a newspaper with wide circulation in the country, the weekly cultural section Literary Supplement of O Estado de São Paulo, in which he wrote between October 1956 and December 1965.

He puts his weight on sheltering young people in his column, bending criticism in that direction (hence his estrangement from another newspaper critic, Rubem Biáfora), quickly receiving recognition from the new generation, including Glauber Rocha. He also partly comes from himself, still influenced by French cinephilia and Bazinian realism (in addition to the cinematographic flair of George Sadoul), the rediscovery of Humberto Mauro (see Mauro and due altri Grandi in "Il Cinema Brasiliano”, Silva Editore/1961, text centered on the work of Humberto Mauro). Paulo Emilio (who would later, in 1972, defend an academic thesis on the director[I]) is at the base of the movement that led, culminating in the Critical Review of Brazilian Cinema (1963 book by the first Glauber), to placing the filmmaker from Minas Gerais, and not Mario Peixoto, in the spotlight as a predecessor in the pantheon of Brazilian cinema built by the new generation in search of parameters and roots.

Humberto Mauro satisfactorily bridges the gap between silent cinema, the beginning of sound cinema in the 1930s, and the cinema of the late 1950s, still marked by post-war realism, in which the early Cinema Novo came to be inserted. Paulo Emilio had the eye to discover that the forgotten Humberto Mauro, after all, had the driving force to turn an evolutionary line.

His 'master' Plinio Sussekind was unable to follow him with the same precision, even though he kept in touch, along with Otávio de Faria, with the first steps taken by young filmmakers in the second half of the 1950s (in the film club activity of Joaquim Pedro de Andrade and Paulo César Saraceni). From his initiation with Sussekind, we still breathe, in Paulo Emilio's first review, the old generation's search for the cinematographic 'absolute' in the ineffable sublime of the mute image.

Proximity also reveals the fascination he exerts on Paulo Emilio, as in André Bazin's generation (which is his), the figure and cinema of Charles Chaplin, an integral myth of the greatest potential of the new art. It is in this field that Limit (1931/Mário Peixoto) swims in large strokes – and for that very reason is far from the aesthetic impulses of the first Cinema Novo, when they acquire their own coloring. “Typical abortion of an underdeveloped culture”, is how Glauber manages to end his chapter on Limit ("The myth Limit") in Critical Review of Brazilian Cinema, after some more thoughtful consideration.[ii]

The sensitivity of Salles Gomes with his time will, however, go beyond the leap towards Bazinian realism and the meeting with Nelson Pereira dos Santos from 40º river/ 1954 e North Zone River/1957, a leap that their Chaplin Club masters no longer make. His last critical breath appears synthesized in Cinema: trajectory in underdevelopment (1973)[iii] when he mixes a developmental analysis of Brazilian cinematographic production in the 1968th century, with the “displacement of the axis of creativity” in XNUMX, with “the individual crisis replacing the social one and allowing forty-year-olds to experience a new youthfulness”[iv]. He advances, therefore, through post-1968 cinema, finding tools to trace a path that will take him close to Tropicalismo, approaching with agility the strongest vein that derives from Cinema Novo: the one that enters Cinema Marginal, through the aesthetics of garbage and exasperation, in the orbit of the Dionysian powers of tanning/abjection.

Already in the debates of the early 1960s, Paulo Emilio's participation was intense in the atmosphere of the time that gave rise to the emergence of Cinema Novo. He maintains a creative dialogue with several filmmakers (and especially with Glauber Rocha). These activities in São Paulo at the time revolved around the group gathered in the embryo of the Cinemateca Brasileira, in line with the claims of young filmmakers from Rio de Janeiro/Bahia. Critics such as Paulo Emilio Salles Gomes, Almeida Salles, Rudá de Andrade, Jean-Claude Bernardet and Gustavo Dahl (who was not yet directing) supported emerging cinema in the pages of the Literary Supplement, opened in Paulo Emilio's column and in other media outlets.

In addition to holding the First National Convention of Film Criticism, in 1960, in which loose ideas were fermented, Paulo Emilio was also involved in the Homage to Brazilian Cinema, which took place during the 1961 Bienal de São Paulo. first time with greater evidence, on the eve of the mature outbreak of the 1963 trilogy (Dried lives/Nelson Pereira dos Santos; the rifles/Ruy Guerra; God and Devil in the Land of the Sun/Glauber) and also on the eve of the unexpected success (Golden Palm at Cannes) by Oswaldo Massaini and Anselmo Duarte with The Promise Payer/1962 (film outside the cinemanovista group).

In the memories present in the autobiography of Paulo César Saraceni,[v] the heated discussions of that 1961 Exhibition (to which Glauber also came) and especially the acidic debates with the duo César Mêmolo and Carlos Alberto de Souza Barros, from the old São Paulo generation who lived inside the studios, were etched in the author’s memory. Testimonies converge that the Homage to Brazilian Cinema takes place under the umbrella of Paulo Emilio (a senior figure who is preserved from the strongest discussions), constituting a kind of official launch of Cinema Novo. It is the definitive public recognition of the movement, which also involves a more restricted self-definition of the group.

From that time is A Colonial Situation? text that marks the turn of the critic towards Brazilian cinema and the new climate that, in 1960, is outlined on the horizon.[vi] Previously, Paulo Emilio's most significant articles had an encyclopedic profile, dealing with retrospectives and classic authors of world cinema.

From A Colonial Situationl? he finds the good vein to focus on national cinema. It establishes a framework in which the art of cinema in Brazil is finally able to dialogue organically with the artistic production of its time and in its country, in the same way that other arts dialogue with critics of their generation such as Antonio Candido or Décio de Almeida Meadow. In A Colonial Situation?/1960 begins the path that will lead, twelve years later, to Cinema: Trajectory in Underdevelopment/1973, closing Paulo Emilio's career in criticism and theory. It is the moment when the tools are out of the box, but they are not yet given the usefulness that the mature form will allow.

Em A Colonial Situation? Paulo Emilio composes the role of the national through Brazilianness, rooting itself in the dilemmas of the spectator/critic's position of inferiority. It is something that arises in specular proximity to a fractured self that forms a culture of inferiority and arrogant resentment. Proximity to the self is inevitably split and what one wants to avoid springs up, bringing with it the feeling of shame. Salles Gomes then establishes the positions that will focus his thinking.

The central structure lies in the new attraction that national cinema exerts on itself. The affection of this encounter appears for the first time in the essay defined as a “state of distress”. A “state” that would be rescued soon after by Cinema Novo, but whose rescue was not foreseen in 1960. A Colonial Situation? (initially a “thesis” presented at the First National Convention of Film Critics)[vii] it is steeped in negative sentiment and has a strong depressive undertone.

The economicist approach, already with signs of developmentalism in Isebian colors (the “developmental ambitions in the artistic and industrial terrain”[viii]), makes its debut in the thought of Paulo Emilio. A Colonial Situation? marks, therefore, the meeting of the mature critic with Brazilian cinema, a meeting that has already been outlined, but which seems to have been avoided for years (at least in the intensity that now arises), whether due to the long periods abroad, or the effective lack of of continuing interest. The dilemmas of Brazilian cinema, in the early and mid-1950s, did not affect the socialist Paulo Emilio as they did the marginal participants in the industrial adventure (Alex Viany, Nelson Pereira and others), who took the left-wing realism, close to the PCB, after of the Cinema Congresses in the beginning of the decade.

Paulo Emilio's proximity to the Brazilian cinema of which A Colonial Situation? it is testimony given in the form and intensity of the passions that erupt in maturity. From the discovery, he will abandon all other lovers and only have eyes for the chosen young woman. The correspondence is mutual and also feeds back. Brazilian cinema effectively emerged with a distinctive glow and, from 1961 onwards, found in Paulo Emilio an old man (the advanced 'forty years' of the mid-twentieth century) with open arms to welcome him.

The new passion asks for exclusivity and he will not hesitate to grant it, also because the youthful beauty that emerges draws everyone's attention. The most interesting thing – and what justifies the new lover’s later complaints – is that Paulo Emilio will end up abandoning her, halfway down the altar, at the height of her splendor, to choose his poor cousin, the rejected pornochanchada (or, specifically, the national “bad film”), following the trail until it led to the exacerbations of Marginal Cinema.

Paulo Emilio is inconstant and Glauber, at times, will be bitter about this point. accuse him of New Cinema Revolution, of having adhered to the 'Udigrudist intent' (Cinema Marginal) and of not assuming who called him to lead: “Paulo Emilio cannot, like John Reed, criticize the phenomenon with whom he lives and calls him to lead. He refused the crown several times, left the group without the Imperial Command (…) and, during the 1968 udigrudista attempt, he supported the insurgents as if the new cinema were the politburo".[ix] When Cinema Novo and young people, which it had stimulated so much in 1960/1961, definitively assert themselves (besides the aforementioned 1963 trilogy, the whole group is very consistent when it comes to feature films: Leon Hirszman, Joaquim Pedro, Cacá Diegues, Paulo César Saraceni, Gustavo Dahl, Walter Lima Jr), Paulo Emilio will be dealing with personal problems. Between Brasília and São Paulo, he gives the impression of not being so focused on film criticism, or open to being enthusiastic about the resounding recognition of cinema that, as a pioneer, he had foreseen and bet on.

The Cinemateca project also continues to absorb his time and concerns. When he returns and focuses on the subject, we are already in the late 1960s, early 1970s, and the context is different. O 'momentum' had passed and again Paulo Emilio shows his radical personality that accepts ruptures and shocks without fear, something he brings since his youth. Now he finds ground to maintain the challenging position elsewhere. Cinema Novo leaves the foreground and the aesthetics of Cinema Marginal appear nearby. Of course, the emphasis given to Cinema: Trajectory in Underdevelopment for the 'brand new' Marginal generation.


Paulo Emilio accepts, in maturity, in a recomposed way, the influence of the aesthetic sensibility of his first youth teacher, Oswald de Andrade. It is no longer the 'revolutionary louse', a term Oswald coined to respond to a review written by Paulo Emilio. Or even the 'foal' that kicks without being a horse to hurt, another adjective description by Oswald de Andrade that qualifies the young rebel ("Oswald, happy, explained to his friends that my vital form of expression was the kick, but that there was no mistake, it was not a horse, but a foal”[X]). Paulo Emilio seems to nurture, as the 1960s progress, a renewed closeness to the one he called his first 'master' and later placed himself as a 'disciple'.

The new proximity is influenced by the reassessment of Oswald's work in the wave of counterculture and Tropicalism. At the end of the 1960s, Salles Gomes follows the ideological winds of the moment, progressively abandoning post-war realism and the developmentalist illusions of industrial cinema present in A Colonial Situation? (but that we still breathe in Trajectory). It walks more and more towards the new fragmented and libertarian contemporaneity, discovering that it is possible to affirm nationality in the reverse of the cultural industry and the bad film, as long as there are enough teeth for a creative swallowing driven by an anthropophagic appetite. Perhaps it is the opposite movement to that made in the 1930s, when, according to Décio de Almeida Prado, he moved from the adolescent proximity to modernist iconoclasm (“There was only one criterion. Everything that seemed modern to me had value”[xi]) for the social thought that, in reality, was also included there.

The Oswaldian posture that returns in Paulo Emilio at the end of his life is that of the young colt, but now the kick does not seek to hit the modernist poet's back. Paulo Emilio, when he was a foal, was part of the 'chato-boys' group, Oswald's definition for young people, later in the magazine Climate, who sought him out in the late 1930s, close to the academic thinking that emerged in the project at the University of São Paulo. He was an Oswald de Andrade already linked to the Communist Party, marked by the influence of social struggles in the 1930s and by the rise of regionalist social concerns, but who still had one foot excessively stuck in 1922, according to the critical eye of the “hard” Paulo Emilio .

This is how his friend Décio de Almeida Prado traces his personality in Paulo Emilio as a young man: “the novelists of the suffering Northeast embodied for us the true modernity, broad, generous, close to the people, aware of their social responsibilities, without the sestras and formal mannerisms of 1922, buried in 1929 along with the economic euphoria. We are in the 30s, not the 20s, that is the harsh warning that Paulo Emilio makes to Oswald, over whom he thought he had the advantage of youth (…)”.[xii]

Décio refers to Paulo Emilio's positive criticism of The Kid Ricardo/1935, the social novel by José Lins do Rego, and the opposite reading, grudgingly (and ready for the 'kickback'), by The Man and the Horse/1934. The review is entitled Moleque Ricardo and the National Liberation Alliance and left in 1935, when the book by José Lins was published, despite his friendship with Oswald de Andrade. According to Paulo Emilio in his review, The Man and the Horse it is full of “useless obscenities” motivated “by the excitement that Oswald de Andrade got from wanting to see the face the bourgeois would make when hearing so many ugly names. What happened was that Oswald failed to see the face of either the bourgeois or the proletarian.”[xiii]

The Man and the Horse it was the play that Oswald tried to placate with different references to his Marxist readings, forcing, in the new spirit of the times, the libertarian tone alongside the socialist revolt, with “high fantasy” allegories. The bold young man's criticism (just over 18 years old) provokes the poet's moody response which contains, among other diatribes, the epithet “louse of the revolution” mentioned above: “(…) I'm going to explain to you what it is The Man and the Horse” (Oswald writes to Paulo Emilio), “it is a high fantasy play where I place man in transition – between the horse of war and turf (bourgeois society) and the horsepower (socialist society). To bring the two worlds into collision, I make the professor go through the stratosphere and look for the most reactionary people in the old heaven of virgins and Pedro. These people come here to find Fascism first, then the Revolution and Socialization”.[xiv]

It is therefore in this background that the young Paulo Emilio finds Oswald de Andrade already marked by the exhaustion of 1922 and by the rise of regionalist social concern – but still biting hard, and out of measure, with his fragmentary sarcastic streak.

At the end of the 1960s, at a time when a certain verve from 1922 returned full steam ahead for Tropicalismo, Paulo Emilio (as an old man…) had no difficulty in tuning in to current times. Through the counterculture, oscillating between enjoyment and horror, the anthropophagic impulse is incorporated in the second wind of Cinema Novo (from earth in trance to Macunaima; The Dragon of Evil Against the Holy Warrior; Brazil Year 2000; Pindorama and others), being radicalized in its extreme in Marginal Cinema.

The same storm hits Paulo Emilio and he assumes it with a radicalism that may seem strange to someone looking at the critic from the outside. He is now an “elder” and at the end of his life, like the “lived forty years old” that 1968 allows him to “experience a new youthfulness”, as he writes in Trajectory. The iconoclastic posture of the young 'revolutionary louse' is awakened, again in tune with his time. Which perhaps explains the feeling of detachment that Cinemanovistas (with the exception of Saraceni) manifest with themselves, following the series of attentive articles that Paulo Emilio directs, in the early 1970s, to the “very young” exponents of Marginal Cinema.

This is the turn we breathe on the horizon in Cinema: Trajectory in underdevelopment and that gives the differential personality of the test. It is the defense of a mismatch: the one that swallows intertextuality and leads to the surprising incorporation of the 'other-garbage', if national, by Paulo Emilio's criticism. Textual 'Other' that, for the Marginais, is the chanchada, the horror film, the western, the film noir or science fiction, always in tune with the modern cinematographic sensibility of the Nouvelle Vague that embeds the intertext in the discovery of Hollywood auteurism . Like the young Marginais da Boca, Paulo Emilio also goes further and, in his own way, manages to swallow not only the chanchada, but also the pornochanchada, once the door of the 'bad film' that calls for conversation is opened.

In this sense, Paulo Emilio criticizes the absence of the swallowing bias in the first Cinema Novo: “the fact of wanting to distance itself from the chanchada entirely, was something that, I think, did not do Cinema Novo well”.[xv] In displacement, Paulo Emilio manages to approach the anthropophagic sensibility, now recycled in the 1960s, affirmatively opening himself to the intertextual swallowing of the national 'bad film', whether through the bad film 'chanchada', or, even more shocking, the 'pornochanchada'. We can say that pornochanchada is Paulo Emilio's bishop Sardinha: swallowing her founds the nation and inaugurates the mirror of the opposite, in the affirmative way and as a liberating power. It becomes the root of a Brazilianness that is not only possible, but desirable at that moment in Brazilian cinema.


For a critic who lived through the national cinematographic environment of the 1950s, it was a long step. the novelty of Cinema: Trajectory in Underdevelopment it is in the progressive abandonment (although always present on the horizon) of the old ideological context. The tone of the essay remains sombre, even due to the acute moment of its publication (1973). Paulo Emilio suffered political and professional persecution that also affected those close to him.

But the difference between the contexts of A Colonial Situation? e Trajectory it goes without saying. We come out of a text that, in 1960, shows a tired critic, on the verge of a nervous breakdown, seeming to give up just as the day is about to break. Twelve years later, when he writes Trajectory,the author has already experienced and experienced from within the great Brazilian cinema of 1963/1964 and the second half of the 1960s, with its constellation of masterpieces and wide international recognition.

Detailing the gap, there is in A Colonial Situation? the retrospective frustration of someone who, in 1960, looks back and sees the poor results obtained in the efforts of the studios' industrial attempt. The alienation of film criticism described in A Colonial Situation? is at the origin of Paulo Emilio’s vision that Brazilian cinema is the other thing of foreign film, it is the other as an expression of what, simultaneously, is the very thing of the spectator/critic: “The national film is a disturbing element for the artificial but coherent world of cinematic ideas and sensations that the critic has created for himself. As for the naive public, Brazilian cinema is also something else for the specialized intellectual”[xvi].

Em Trajectory the formulation of the national as “another thing” is already mature and takes its final definition in oppositions that became known, such as the finding of the “rarefied dialectic”: “We are neither Europeans nor Americans, but devoid of original culture, nothing is foreign to us, because everything is. The painful construction of ourselves develops in the rarefied dialectic between non-being and being other. Brazilian film participates in the mechanism and alters it through our creative incompetence in copying”.[xvii]

In the dialectic of the other for the thing itself, between the non-being and the being-other of culture, Paulo Emilio emphasizes in the tropicalist “creative incompetence in copying” the structural originality of the national. The thing-itself is the impossible identity Brazil without fissure, that of the we-ourselves that necessarily reveals the protective dome that the critic built for himself in proximity to the foreign pattern of the thing-other. The critic's dome is defined by the scar it inaugurates (following another term that he would become classic, in the Isebian-developmentalist tone of the time): the “cruel mark of underdevelopment”. Scar that already appears in A Colonial Situation? defined in expressions such as “alienation”, “depletion”, “dissatisfaction”, “bitterness”, “poisoned atmosphere”, “pettyness”, “dilapidated capital”, “a certain dryness”, “discomfort”, “humiliation”.

In the gap between what one intends to be and what one is, the “feeling of humiliation” emerges. The diagnosis is acute when relating this position of “humiliation”, mongrel, to the “demolishing sarcasm” of the film critic to the national mirror that torments him. The inferior position is the central trait of the Brazilianness that Paulo Emilio outlines in A Colonial Situation/1960 and which evolves, in the way we are describing, in Trajectory/1973. In this last essay, the inferiority of the national 'bad' finds, through the “rarefied dialectic” of the being-other, a crack to leave the dead end of the fierce criticism. Now, being a symptom, it opens up in the affirmative mode of swallowing intertextual incorporation. If the first post-war realism could not find oxygen to breathe the 'quotational' vein, the brand new cinema (and its criticism) conjugate, by incorporating, the verb 'avacalhar' in the rarefied dialectic of creative incompetence in copying – that of not -being being someone else.

The two panoramic views of Brazilian cinema, written under the influence of the context of neo-realist modernity in the 1950s, Introduction to Brazilian Cinema/1959 by Alex Viany and Critical Review of Brazilian Cinema/1963 by Glauber Rocha, are still linked to the strange horizon of swallowing and, therefore, vomiting. The chanchada is mentioned in passing to be placed in the background, as it does not fit in the script. For Viany, a critic who writes in Rio de Janeiro, it exists when it approaches the popular composition that he has as a parameter (Moacyr Fenelon), but the duo Oscarito/Grande Otelo, in films that are now classics, practically goes unnoticed.

Restricting and discrediting mentions of the genre remain until late in Alex Viany's criticism. In the case of Glauber Rocha, the chanchada is the great absence of the Critical Review. The panorama that Glauber traces in 1963 is still marked by Alex Viany's previous generation, from the first realism of the 1950s, plus the ambitions of young cinema to build an authorial pantheon.

The stimulus in the tropicalist spirit open to the citational absorption of mass culture (reaching pornochanchada as the song reaches “the relics of Brazil”, turning into the “superbacana superhist-superflit”), shows Paulo Emilio's posture in tune with the brand new Marginal Cinema. Its positioning leaves room for the intertextual dialogism messed up with the Hollywood B-movie and the mass media (television and radio) which, in Brazilian Cinema, is inaugurated by The Red Light Bandit/1968 or, even more radically, by the rubbish of Everyone's Woman/1969 (both by Rogério Sganzerla).

the chanchada in Trajectory is already seen as a “landmark” (“the cinematographic phenomenon that developed in Rio de Janeiro from the 40s onwards is a milestone”[xviii]) because “uninterrupted production for about twenty years” and “was processed unrelated to the occupier’s taste and contrary to foreign interest”[xx]. The phrase serves as an introduction to a long paragraph of elegy in which the contemporary recovery of the genre can already be breathed, definitively leaving behind the context of Viany from 1959 (“a hitherto uninterrupted flood of musical chanchadas, always rushed and almost always sloppy”[xx]).

The chronological description of Brazilian Cinema in Cinema: Trajectory in Underdevelopment goes one step further. Take a deep breath of the crisis that Brazilian Cinema was experiencing at the height of the leaden years, in full force of the military dictatorship in its hardest period. It does not, however, end at the dead end into which Cinema Novo found itself. We start from Bela Época, pass through the “anthological” chanchadas, the “great” Vera Cruz, the realism of “political communism” and the “diffuse socialist feeling” of the 1950s, and we end up in a Cinema Novo that was already 'disintegrated' (in 1973) and that “it never reached the desired identification with the Brazilian social organism”. The analysis continues until the maximum contemporaneity. It reaches the last ripples of the contemporary wave, called by Paulo Emilio as 'Cinema do Trash'. The finish line of the train from history in Trajectory is stretched there.

Already in 70 years of Brazilian Cinema: 1896/1966,[xxx] In a text published in 1966 in co-authorship with Adhemar Gonzaga (he would be responsible for the illustrations and subtitles), the critic's emphasis seems to be on the historiographic recovery of the production of the first years of the 60th century, bringing only an outline of the initial Cinema Novo “in the five first years of the XNUMXs”, practically reduced to a “Bahia phenomenon”[xxiii]. It could be argued that, in Panorama as in Trajectory, Paulo Emilio owes a broader vision of Cinema Novo. In both it appears squeezed, without due space.

In one case, it is sketched at a very early stage, and in the other, after it has ended, without sensitivity to the enduring power of his works in Brazilian Cinema. The New Cinema in Trajectory, despite being characterized “after Bela Época and Chanchada” as the “third global event of importance in the history of our cinema”[xxiii], is prevented by the dictatorship from moving freely and “orphaned by a catalyst public”. Its main participants “dispersed into individual careers guided by each one's temperament and taste”.[xxv]

For Paulo Emilio, the individual developments of the Cinemanovistas do not have, at this moment, the authorial organicity that cinema made by the generation that follows them acquires, that of the 'Cinema do Garbage': “None of them (of the Cinemanovistas), however, settled in the lack of hope that surrounded the agony of this cinema. The line of despair was taken up by a current that was frontally opposed to what Cinemanovismo had been and that called itself, at least in São Paulo, Cinema do Lixo”[xxiv]. The “line of despair” – so well foreseen at the end of the “trajectory” of Brazilian Cinema – comes on the crest of the wave generated by a movement that he envisions overlapping with Cinema Novo, following a generational sensitivity.

The critic's intuition clearly locates, in 1973, the two structural axes of Cinema Marginal: existential exasperation in the abjection and representation of horror; and the intertextual dialogue with the brega, or the rubbish/bad-object. The description he makes is adjective. Young people, who "could, under other circumstances, have prolonged and rejuvenated the action of Cinema Novo whose universe and theme they partially resume", sharpen this horizon "in terms of debasement, sarcasm and a cruelty that in the best works becomes almost unbearable by neutral indifference”.[xxv]

The old critic, still formed by the ethics of good, is astonished by the radical representation of extreme abjection ('almost unbearable') carried out by the Marginals. The films as a whole are perceived in their unity, something that many still today insist on denying. We feel that Paulo Emilio's pen is enlivened in contact with the disorderly impulses of Cinema Marginal, thus emerging the beautiful figures of his style of maturity, which will still have literature as its ultimate fruit: “heterogeneous conglomeration of nervous artists from the city and craftsmen from the suburbs” (certainly referring to Boca here), “Lixo proposes an anarchism without any rigor or anarchic culture and tends to transform the plebs into rabble, the occupied into trash. This degraded underworld traversed by grotesque entourages, condemned to the absurd, mutilated by crime, sex and slave labor, without hope or contaminated by fallacy, is, however, animated and redeemed by an inarticulate anger. O Lixo had time, before fulfilling its suicidal vocation, to produce a unique human timbre in national cinema”[xxviii].

And it is to this 'unique human timbre' of suicide and garbage as the exasperated residue of military authoritarianism, a manifestation of an 'inarticulate social anger', that Paulo Emilio will dedicate the best part of his last writings focused on cinema.


At the end of his career, in reviews published mainly in 1973/75, following Trajectory, the position of incorporating the 'bad', highlighted beyond Marginal Cinema, is reaffirmed. Paulo Emilio not only states that “the spectator stimulated by the foreign product died in me”[xxviii], but, which caused a lot of commotion at the time, he chose “poor quality Brazilian cinema” as an art form that creatively opens itself to the perception of the self, thus composing an unshakable universe: “underdevelopment is tedious, but its consciousness is creative”[xxix].

Or again: “The spectator stimulated by the foreign product has died in me and I see that this is not a personal phenomenon”.[xxx] The enthusiasm with the newly discovered position is evident in the reviews of 1974 and 1975, the last ones published before his death: “from the analysis of a bad Brazilian film, a joy of understanding emanates that the consumption of the art of a Bergman, for example , does not provide a Brazilian spectator”.[xxxii]

This “joy of understanding” comprises, therefore, at its core, Paulo Emilio's critical position on the national that we have seen evolving from A Colonial Situation? Now it is recharged in an empathy that possesses, in the security of maturity, the necessary impulse to become exclusive and affirm Brazilianness in a kind of carnal promiscuity. There is, therefore, a mainly happy and affirmative understanding of the national, as a power that brings with it a hermeneutic of experience: the being-self of the interpretation breaks out in the creative incapacity, when reflected in the being-other. Affirmative inability that only the fusion of horizons in common non-belonging can offer: “we find so much of ourselves in a bad film that can reveal so much about our problems, our culture, our underdevelopment, our stupidity inseparable from our humanity, which in the last analysis is much more stimulating for the spirit and for the culture to take care of these bad things than to be consuming in the greatest intellectual comfort and in the greatest aesthetic satisfaction the foreign products”.[xxxi]

Aesthetic satisfaction with the foreigner is classified as “intimacy by the branch” (superficial), as it lacks the essential element for common belonging in the fusion of horizons that is the language: “(intimacy) greater with English, French, minor cinema evidently with Japanese cinema, for which there are so many specialists, therefore sometimes without even knowing the language. This is the case with Swedish cinema (…) I feel very clearly how we are, within foreign cinema, diminished spectators”.[xxxii] The singularity of knowledge that brings identity in expression through speech (which in cinema goes beyond knowledge through the sign), becomes the unique and differentiated parameter of communication in national films. It is a structural element in the interpretation, to which Paulo Emilio returns.

The elegy of the 'bad film', of the national 'stupid' film, fits, therefore, like a glove in this context and it is not surprising to see its confluence in the discussion of the aesthetics that surround Marginal Cinema. By tuning in to the intertextual vein that comes with the incorporation of the 'bad film', it attracts the admiration of young people from Boca who made “cinema out of garbage”. It is not for nothing, therefore, the polemical tone that the critic assumes to defend Brazilian cafajeste/boçal cinema in an interview he gave to members of this generation (Carlos Reichenbach, Eder Mazini and Inácio Araújo), published in the solitary issue of the magazine cinematographyIn 1974.[xxxv]

The harmony with the sensibility of Cinema Marginal da Boca seems to be stronger due to the presence of the interviewer trio, taking on acute tones at certain times. Arguments are made explicit that we find nuanced in Trajectory and also in newspaper reviews between 1974 and 1975. The final result may have frightened Paulo Emilio, to the point of classifying the set, in a note sent later to the editors, as “a chaotic agglomeration of words and phrases”, “chaos” from which end up 'emerging ideas that I recognize, are dear to me and maybe mine'[xxxiv]. The statements in the interview are directed towards stating where, at that moment, the progressive line of Brazilian cinema, envisioned in Trajectory. And she appears in the generation that, in the early 1970s, took the baton left by Cinema Novo.

The defense of the fruition of the national and the Brazilianness, including the rubbish of the bad film, is controversial. In a long letter dated October 3, 1974, addressed to “friend” Paulo Emilio (thus he signs) and later published, in 1978, in volume 6 of Opinion Tests[xxxiv], Mauricio Segall expresses serious reservations about Paulo Emilio's vision of Brazilian cinema. The tone of the missive borders on indignation. It shows a common reaction in the ideological field of the traditional left to the antics of Cinema Marginal and the tropicalist sensibility, close to the type of attitude that is conventionally called 'disbunde'.

Would Paulo Emilio have 'disbumed'? seems to ask the letter writer. This is the charge we can feel behind Segall's letter. The questioning is strong, even accusing Paulo Emilio of fascist tendencies. One feels that the opening to the anthropophagic swallowing of the cultural industry, affirming the bad film, touches an intimate chord. Segall wants to rescue the national from an axis that can correctly be referred to the Cepecist sensibility (CPC – Centro Popular de Cultura) of the early 1960s, prior to the 1964 coup, disconnected, or in frank opposition, to the nuances of incorporation multiple intertextuality without a gravitational axis, a direction to which Paulo Emilio winks with all his eyes in his late review.

Elegy that, for Mauricio Segall, is nothing but 'pessimistic and desperate nationalism'. Pessimistic, as it values ​​what is not good (the bad film) in a delicate political moment, towards which it does not raise the voice of ideological hope. Desperate, as it goes against the representation of exasperation and debauchery in the years of lead, seeming to sink into it. Paulo Emilio would not only leave out the demand for an existential engagement but, in opposition, he considers as filth what can only be classified as “alienated”.

Another adjective used to designate the context is “irrationality”, an accusative form quite present in the critical discourse of the time – and not only in cinema. The demand echoes throughout Mauricio Segall's letter, characteristic of the clipping that, one day, Paulo Emilio was close to. Now, however, the radical nature of the turn of the 1960s/1970s is being challenged. The field in which Mauricio Segall inhabits wants to exercise a kind of diffuse bad conscience about the deviation of his colleague, qualifying his direction as belonging to the murky waters of “irrationality” – an expression that serves to designate the unbridled powers of excess and pure affirmation, without the turn of the guilt screw.

Outside of thought and representation, beyond identity and resemblance, what breathes in the designated “irrationality” are the intense forms of enjoyment/ecstasy and abjection/horror, figurations that do not regurgitate through the circle of negation, but sink the gap of difference.

The charge for responsible practice is an attempt to pull the ear of Paulo Emilio, accused of leading not only himself to the wrong path, but also those he influences as a critic and teacher. As we noted, Paulo Emilio seems to have awakened in maturity the anarchic spirit that he nurtured in his early years. Despite explicitly declaring that he does not consider himself modern (in the sense the expression had in the 1920s and 1930s), and not sharing, in his youth, the sensitivity of the moderns towards cinema (as shared by Plínio Sussekind Rocha or Otávio de Faria), at the end of his life finds her again in what the discovery of the anthropophagic modernist vortex meant for the young filmmakers of the 1960s and 1970s. Paulo Emilio's most acidic and creative verve remained intense until the end.

*Fernao Pessoa Ramos He is a professor at the Institute of Arts at Unicamp. Author, among other books, of Marginal Cinema (1968-1973): representation at its limit (Brasiliense).


[I] Then the book, Gomes, Paulo Emilio Salles. Humberto Mauro, Cataguases and Cinearte. São Paulo, Perspective, 1974.

[ii] Rock, Glauber. Critical Review of Brazilian Cinema. Rio de Janeiro, Brazilian Civilization, 1963. Pg. 45.

[iii] Gomes, Paulo Emilio Salles. Cinema: trajectory in underdevelopment. IN Gomes, Paulo Emilio Salles. Cinema: Trajectory in underdevelopment. Rio de Janeiro. Paz e Terra/Embrafilme, 1980. Originally published in Revista Argument. Rio de Janeiro, nº 1, Oct. 1973, pp 55-67.

[iv] Ditto, p. 86.

[v] Saraceni, Paulo Cesar. Inside Cinema Novo – My trip. Rio de Janeiro, Nova Fronteira, 1993.

[vi] Gomes, Paulo Emilio Salles. A colonial situation? IN Gomes, Paulo Emilio Salles. Film Criticism in the Literary Supplement. Rio de Janeiro, Paz e Terra, 1981. Vol. II, pp 286-291. Originally published in O Estado de S. Paulo, Literary Supplement, November 19, 1960, pg. 5.

[vii] The published text has small differences in relation to the “thesis”. See Gardnier, Ruy.

[viii] Gomes, Paulo Emilio Salles. A colonial situation. Op. Quote, page 288.

[ix] Rock, Glauber. New Cinema Revolution (Roberto Pires 80). SP, Cosac Naify, 2004. Pg 462.

[X] Gomes, Paulo Emilio Salles. A Disciple of Oswald in 1935. IN Gomes, Paulo Emilio Salles. Film Criticism in the Literary Supplement. Vol II. Op. Cit. October 25, 1964. Pg 443.

[xi] Same, page 440

[xii] Prado, Décio de Almeida. Paulo Emilio as a young man. IN Calil, Carlos Augusto and Machado, Maria Teresa (org.). Paulo Emilio – An intellectual on the front line. São Paulo, Brasiliense, 1986. Pg 23.

[xiii] Gomes, Paulo Emilio Salles. Moleque Ricardo and the National Liberation Alliance. A Platéia, São Paulo, September 21, 1935. IN Calil, Carlos Augusto and Machado, Maria Teresa (org.). Paulo Emilio – an intellectual on the front line. Op. Quote, page 36.

[xiv] Andrade, Oswald. Little note to Paulo Emilio. The Audience. São Paulo, September 25, 1935. IN Idem, page 38.

[xv]Interview with Carlos Reichenbach, Eder Mazini and Inácio Araújo. Paulo Emilio – I only liked foreign cinema. Revista Cinegrafia nº1, 1974. Reproduced in Caetano, Maria do Rosário (org.). Paulo Emilio Salles Gomes – the man who loved cinema and we who loved him so much. Brasília, Brasília Festival of Brazilian Cinema, 2012. Pg 81.

[xvi] Gomes, Paulo Emilio Salles. A colonial situation?. Op. Quote, page 291.

[xvii] Gomes, Paulo Emilio Salles. Cinema: Trajectory in underdevelopment. IN Gomes, Paulo Emilio Salles. Cinema: Trajectory in underdevelopment. Op.Cit. Pg 77.

[xviii] Gomes, Paulo Emilio Salles. Cinema: trajectory in underdevelopment. IN Gomes, Paulo Emilio Salles. Cinema: trajectory in underdevelopment. Same, page 79.

[xx] Same, p. 79-80.

[xx] Viany, Alex. Introduction to Brazilian Cinema. Rio de Janeiro, Revan, 1993. Pg 121.

[xxx]  Gonzaga, Adhemar, Salles Gomes, PE 70 years of Brazilian cinema. Rio de Janeiro, Expressão e Cultura, 1966. This same text, expanded, is republished under the title of Panorama of Brazilian Cinema: 1896/1966. IN Gomes, Paulo Emilio Salles. Cinema: trajectory in underdevelopment. Op.Cit, pg 38-69.

[xxiii] Gonzaga, Adhemar; Salles Gomes, PE 70 years of Brazilian cinema. Op.Cit., page 117.

[xxiii] Gomes, Paulo Emilio Salles. Cinema: trajectory in underdevelopment. Op. Cit. Pg 82.

[xxv] Same, page 84.

[xxiv] Same, Ibid.

[xxv] Same, Ibid.

[xxviii] Same, same.

[xxviii] Gomes, Paulo Emilio Salles. Explanation presents. Jornal da Tarde, São Paulo, April 10, 1973. IN Calil, Carlos Augusto. Machado, Maria Teresa (org.). Paulo Emilio – An intellectual on the front line. São Paulo, Brasiliense/Embrafilme, 1986. Pg 262.

[xxix] Same, page 263.

[xxx] Same, page 262.

[xxxii] Brazilian Cinema at the University/ The Joy of Bad Brazilian Film. Movement, September 1, 1975. IN Calil, Carlos Augusto. Machado, Maria Teresa (org.). Paulo Emilio – An intellectual on the front line. São Paulo, Brasiliense/Embrafilme, 1986. Pg 308.

[xxxi] Interview with Carlos Reichenbach, Eder Mazini and Inácio Araújo. Paulo Emilio – I only liked foreign cinema. Revista Cinografia nº1, 1974. IN Op. Cit. Pg 79.

[xxxii] Same, same.

[xxxv] Interview with Carlos Reichenbach, Eder Mazini and Inácio Araújo. Paulo Emilio – I only liked foreign cinema. Revista Cinografia nº1, 1974. Pg 74/92. IN Op. Cit.

[xxxiv] Note reproduced along with the interview Paulo Emilio – I only liked foreign cinema. Op. Cit. Pg 75.

[xxxiv] Segal, Mauricio. Brazilian Cinema X Foreign Cinema. Opinion Tests. Vol 6 (or 2+4), 1978. São Paulo. pp 30/36.

the magazine/book Opinion Tests, persecuted by censorship and the military dictatorship since 1973, was initially published as Argument.It had the active participation of Paulo Emilio Salles Gomes in its editorial board, from the first issue until his death. The particular numbering of the publication, as well as the name changes, were strategies to escape persecution and censorship. It is there that Paulo Emilio publishes Cinema – Trajectory in underdevelopment, in the first number of Argument. In 1978 (after an interregnum in which Argument turned Opinion Books and after that, Opinion Tests, edited by Fernando Gasparian and Florestan Fernandes Junior), Essay brings a dossier dedicated to the memory of Paulo Emilio, organized by Jean-Claude Bernardet. On the magazine, as a pole of resistance to the dictatorship, see Candido Jefferson. Argument (1973-1974) and Cadernos de Opinião (1975-1980): milestones of a passage. Linguagem & Ensino Magazine, Pelotas, Vol. 24, No. 1, Jan-Mar 2021.

the earth is round exists thanks to our readers and supporters.
Help us keep this idea going.
Click here and find how

See this link for all articles


  • About artificial ignoranceEugenio Bucci 15/06/2024 By EUGÊNIO BUCCI: Today, ignorance is not an uninhabited house, devoid of ideas, but a building full of disjointed nonsense, a goo of heavy density that occupies every space
  • The society of dead historyclassroom similar to the one in usp history 16/06/2024 By ANTONIO SIMPLICIO DE ALMEIDA NETO: The subject of history was inserted into a generic area called Applied Human and Social Sciences and, finally, disappeared into the curricular drain
  • Franz Kafka, libertarian spiritFranz Kafka, libertarian spirit 13/06/2024 By MICHAEL LÖWY: Notes on the occasion of the centenary of the death of the Czech writer
  • A look at the 2024 federal strikelula haddad 20/06/2024 By IAEL DE SOUZA: A few months into government, Lula's electoral fraud was proven, accompanied by his “faithful henchman”, the Minister of Finance, Fernando Haddad
  • Letter to the presidentSquid 59mk,g 18/06/2024 By FRANCISCO ALVES, JOÃO DOS REIS SILVA JÚNIOR & VALDEMAR SGUISSARDI: “We completely agree with Your Excellency. when he states and reaffirms that 'Education is an investment, not an expense'”
  • PEC-65: independence or patrimonialism in the Central Bank?Campos Neto Trojan Horse 17/06/2024 By PEDRO PAULO ZAHLUTH BASTOS: What Roberto Campos Neto proposes is the constitutional amendment of free lunch for the future elite of the Central Bank
  • Chico Buarque, 80 years oldchico 19/06/2024 By ROGÉRIO RUFINO DE OLIVEIRA: The class struggle, universal, is particularized in the refinement of constructive intention, in the tone of proletarian proparoxytones
  • Why are we on strike?statue 50g 20/06/2024 By SERGIO STOCO: We have reached a situation of shortage of federal educational institutions
  • The melancholic end of Estadãoabandoned cars 17/06/2024 By JULIAN RODRIGUES: Bad news: the almost sesquicentennial daily newspaper in São Paulo (and the best Brazilian newspaper) is rapidly declining
  • The strike at federal Universities and Institutescorridor glazing 01/06/2024 By ROBERTO LEHER: The government disconnects from its effective social base by removing those who fought against Jair Bolsonaro from the political table