“PAULISTA” (“Quanto Dura o Amor?”)
“Paulista” cptures the brief and fleeting relationships that in Sao Paulo, Brazil. It is the story of three young twenty-somethings living in the “Jaqueline Apartment” building and each is looking for love. Marina (Sílvia Lourenço) is an aspiring actress who has moved from the countryside for auditions and begins living with Suzana (Maria Clara Spinelli), a lawyer with a secret. Their neighbor, Jay, is a poet with a severe lack of self-esteem.
Roberto Moreira’s film is a melancholic study of modern relationships in the sterile and cold world of São Paulo. As the film moves forward, Marina becomes disconnected in both a figurative and compositional sense. While Marina is the main character, it is Maria Clara Spinelli’s Suzana that becomes the focal point, breaking out of the conventional portrayal of transsexuals in film. The film does not sexualize nor demeans her and she is the most stable character in the movie and a contrast to the chaotic and spoiled Justine.
The word “Paulista” refers to both inhabitants of São Paulo. The film was originally titled “Quanto Dura o Amor?” (“How long does love last?”) We see that love, in this film, is very brief. All of the characters are defined by their longing for love. Marina falls for Justine, a singer at the nightclub just around the corner. Justine is a wild child and seems to still be attached to Nuno, the owner of the club. Justine is also loony, which becomes increasingly obvious as the movie progresses. Suzanna wants to settle down with a husband, and Gil seems like an ideal match, but her secret causes her to withdraw from him. When she finally opens up, it’s disastrous. Jay’s obsession for Michelle, a prostitute who increasingly tells him that she’s only in it for the money, leads him to humiliating lengths. At the end of the film, all three characters are alone and brokenhearted. While this sounds depressing, it doesn’t matter because it is an enjoyable viewing experience. The ending is perfect and satisfying for all its sadness and sometimes we need to remember that sadness can be sweet.
The São Paulo of this film is an ugly city. It is characterized by concrete housing blocks and sterile buildings. What makes the city come to life here is the life force of the assembled humanity.
Suzanna and the actress, Maria Clara Spinelli, who plays her, are transsexuals, so I have some vested interest in her portrayal. She is fairly unique in movies yet this is not a big thing for the plot. She’s a normal person with a normal job and normal wants and dreams and a normal sex life. The film doesn’t sexualize her, even though she’s gorgeous, nor does it rob her of her sexuality. She’s the most stable character in the film. Spinelli, for her part, invests the character with a kind of melancholy resignation, because her paramour is totally not past it. I am a little bit wary of the way the film eases into revealing her past, but the character is herself totally stealth, so there’s a method to it. It doesn’t play into the trans woman as deceiver archetype, but it flirts with it. Sexualities are taken in stride and the most dysfunctional character in the movie is Jay, a straight man.