Sydney Latin American Film Festival: Jules and Dolores

Scott Wallace
6th Sep 2016

When talking about football in Brazil, there's virtually no way to overstate its national importance - nothing is hyperbole. In 1970, after three World Cup wins, Brazil was awarded the gold Jules Rimet Trophy permanently, and just over a decade later it was stolen and never recovered. The playful and farcical crime story Jules and Dolores, which is opening this year's Sydney Latin American Film Festival, imagines what may have become of the trophy after its disappearance.

Paulo Tiefenthaler plays Peralta, a slick inhabitant of Rio de Janeiro with the gift of the gab, a love of gambling, and a beautiful, flamboyant and independent wife named Dolores (Taís Araújo). After a particularly big loss, Peralta finds himself drowning in debt, and his scheme to pay it off and avoid the wrath of his debtor and his wife, he decides to purloin one of the replicas of the Jules Rimet Trophy. Of course, by a strange mix-up, the trophy taken by Peralta is in fact the real one, and he finds the whole nation after him.

The star of the show is Dolores, and Taís Araújo's performance is absolutely splendid. She turns everything she does, including buying fresh vegetables, into a sensual affair, but at the same time Araújo captures her braininess and resourcefulness. With this cast, the laughs are regular and gleeful, even in the most tenses and sometimes violent sequences. Even characters that only appear briefly make a strong impression despite the fast pace of the narrative. 

Like the best crime comedies, this is a roller coaster ride, and director Caito Ortiz makes some very smart decisions in storytelling - such as recurring sequences, or sequences shown out of chronological order - to keep audiences rapt in the sticky situation in which Peralta has embroiled himself. Movies this fun are hard to come by, and Jules and Dolores is pitch perfect in terms of tone and construction. 

Jules and Dolores is more-or-less a fantasy inspired by real events, but at the same time it taps into something very recognisable and vital about Brazilian culture. Samba-flavoured funk music soundtracks the film, adding sweltering ambience that is perfected by the dynamic cinematography, and brilliantly deployed voice-overs from Dolores. This isn't the sort of thing that immediately comes to mind when the label "world cinema" is invoked, but it's a shining example of the distinctive style of Brazilian cinema.

Jules and Dolores is the opening night movie of the Sydney Latin American Film Festival, showing at 7pm on Thursday September 8th.