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'Bossa Nova'

Romance in Rio: 'Bossa Nova' is a treat for eyes and ears

Friday, July 14, 2000

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Movie Critic

Oh, those wild, wacky Brazilians with their impetuous wooing -- and Amy Irving has to teach them how to do it in English!

'Bossa Nova'

RATING: R in nature for sexual/marital themes

STARRING: Amy Irving, Antonio Fagundes, Debora Bloch, Drica Moraes

DIRECTOR: Bruno Barreto

CRITIC'S CALL: 3 stars


She's wonderfully good at her job in director Bruno Barreto's wonderful romantic comedy, "Bossa Nova," the story of two, four or six couples (depending on how you arrange them) in the process of breaking up and coming back together in different formations.

Pedro Paulo (Antonio Fagundes) is our silver-haired lawyer-hero, a mixture of Marcello Mastroianni, Peter Finch and Boris Yeltsin. His wife (Debora Bloch) is leaving him for a Chinese tai chi instructor (Kazuo Matsui). His brother (Pedro Cardoso) is in love with his law intern (Giovanna Antonelli). Pedro, for his part, opts for the soulful, lonely American teacher, whose Berlitz-type language class includes Rio de Janeiro's most adored soccer player (Alexandre Borges) and whose best friend Nadine (Drica Moraes) is in love with a nerd on the Internet.

The name of the game is mondo Latino screwball comedy, and the name of the music is bossa nova. "New Bump" is the literal translation of that jazz samba musical form -- which is not so nova but just as bossa as it used to be, and somehow funnier and sexier for that very reason, whether the girl is from Ipanema or Aliquippa.

Fagundes is so perfectly suave, and this film is so elegantly continental. But the continent is South America, not Europe. Something about the difference between Portuguese and Spanish, I think, has a lot to do with it. So does the circular cinematography, the classic bossa nova songs of Tom Jobim, and the achingly beautiful shots of Rio that fill the eye of the beholder and the background of every scene.

You can't resist it. Even George W. Bush would be romantic in this setting.

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