“BODY ELECTRIC”— Searching for Himself

 

“Body Electric”

Searching for Himself

Amos Lassen

Elias (Kelner Macêdo) has been dreaming a lot lately about the sea. He works as an assistant to the chief designer (Dani Nefussi) in a garment factory, and while he’s liked by all, and enjoys aspects of the job, he gets little inspiration at work. He has an active sex life, and even though he recently ended a relationship with older, well-off Arthur (Ronaldo Serruya), the two occasionally still sleep together.

As Christmas gets nearer and work intensifies, he begins to socialize more with the factory workers, choosing ignoring the words of otherwise equitable boss Walter (Ernani Sanchez), who advises him to maintain a division between management and the laborers. One of those laborers is feminine Wellington (Lucas Andrade), a thin and willowy youth who brings Elias to meet his nontraditional family, headed by fabulous drag queen Marcia (Marcia Pantera).

All Elias seems to want out of life is to enjoy his friends. He refuses to limit or categorize those he loves. He finds equilibrium in the company of others. This is the first feature film by director Marcelo Caetano and it is a candid and tender tribute to Brazil’s racial and sexual heterogeneity. Set in São Paulo, Brazil the film follows the work and love life of Elias who loves exploring his sexuality and intimate friendships in his free time. Despite being professional and fairly popular amongst his colleagues at the clothing factory, he has reservations about being open with his lifestyle. That does not keep him from experimenting and oftentimes crossing professional boundaries with his co-workers in an attempt to achieve sexual liberation.

This is a “mood movie” that gives us artificial insights into various workplace, nightlife and societal environments without actually articulating any infringement, abuse or social issues present within these surroundings. We see this in the portrayal of the small clothing factory where Elias works. Although the film makes it apparent that the protagonist has a privileged position there (he is consistently financed by an older gay ex of his), little is said about his exploited colleagues who are under-compensated and struggle to squeeze in extra work hours.

The Brazil that we see here is a tolerant and progressive country, but that does not mean that there is no homophobia and hate crimes. However, what we see here is not a tranquil gay paradise, where judgments are mostly absent and almost every character is a peace-loving, kind soul. In Elias’ work environment we see only open-minded individuals who emphatically accept and welcome Elias, his sexuality and his sexually charged lifestyle. Albeit a positive and desired outcome, this scenario is rarely a reality for openly gay men. It would be wonderful if this were true.

Macêdo’s performance as Elias brings a warmth to the character. The film is a genuine representation of a feel-good niche group from Brazil and touches upon the gratifying aspects of libertinism and open sexuality. We see how individual differences can work towards bringing us closer together instead of our drifting apart. “Body Electric” praises individuality and freedom as our birthrights as it takes an intimate look at a racially and sexually diverse LGBT group living in São Paulo.

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