ABOUT THE FILM
Directed by Cacá Diegues and released in 1966, it also has the suggestive subtitle of The adventures and misadventures of Luzia and her three friends from far away. Announcing, in general lines, the film’s structure: Luzia [Anecy Rocha] left the Northeast and made her way to Rio de Janeiro in order to find her fiancé, Jasão [Leonardo Villar]. When she arrived at her destination, she received help from Calunga [Antônio Pitanga], who represents the stereotyped figure of the "malandro" [thug], besides from his activity almost leading the story events. Shortly, Luzia found Jasão and noticed he had become a famous outlaw wanted by Rio police. Their paths from this moment on lead to tragic implications, being both victims of the big city’s urban violence.
Directed by Carlos Diegues
Produced by Luiz Carlos Barreto; Carlos Diegues; and Glauber Rocha
Screenwriting by Carlos Diegues; and Leopoldo Serran
Music Director: Moacir Santos
"A Grande Cidade" theme/song by Zé Keti
Musical excerpts from the work of Heckel Tavares; Heitor Villa-Lobos; Ernesto Nazareth; Francisco Mignone; A. J. S. Monteiro; etc.
Recording and sound design by José Antônio Ventura
COMPOSITIONS IDENTIFIED IN THE SCORE
"Rudepoema", by Heitor Villa-Lobos
"Confidências" and Odeon", by Ernesto Nazareth
"Modinha", first movement from the Concerto em Formas Brasileiras, by Heckel Tavares
"4ª Suíte [Primeira Missa no Brasil]" from the Descobrimento do Brasil, by Heitor Villa-Lobos
"Que noites eu passo", by A. J. S. Monteiro
"Estudo nº 11", by Heitor Villa-Lobos
"Mazurka-Choro", first movement from the Suíte Popular Brasileira, by Heitor Villa-Lobos
"Walk on by", by Burt Bacharach and lyrics by Hal David. Performed by Dionne Warwick
"Sabino e Lampeão" and "Escuta donzela", by Volta Sêca
"Nasci para Chorar", Portuguese version by Roberto Carlos to "I was born to cry", by Dion DiMucci.
"Anda Luzia", by João de Barro. Performed by Maria Bethânia
"Cidade Brinquedo", by Silvino Neto and Plínio Bretas. Performed by Orlando Silva
FILM MUSIC DESCRIPTION AND ANALYSIS
Two years after their work in Ganga Zumba, director Carlos Diegues hired Moacir Santos again to work on A Grande Cidade, but this time only as music director and not as a composer. This change meant that none of Santos’ compositions were used in the film, unlike his other work. In this case, he chose the music to be used and the insertions, taking into consideration the dramatic buildup by means of music. It is very interesting to note how the compositions Santos chose for A Grande Cidade follow an esthetic attitude similar to that of his works as a composer in the previous films, as we shall see.
Throughout the film, some musical insertions composed by solo piano pieces are heard and they are usually linked to the narrative in a similar manner. As in, for example, the representation of the characters’ "negative feelings". In one case, the identified composition is Heitor Villa-Lobos’ "Rudepoema", conveying a dark and introspective feeling. In another scene, the song "Confidências" by Ernesto Nazareth accompanies a delicate and nostalgic moment. Nazareth’s "Odeon", however, is played during a scene that recalls the silent movies with accelerated shots and no diegetic sound on the soundtrack, bringing to mind the musical accompaniments in the style of the pianeiros of the late 19th century.
Among all the orchestral excerpts present in the film, it is possible to recognize and organize three distinct groups: traditional formations, formations with solo piano and formations with chorus or solo voice. A first example of an orchestra being used is "Modinha", the first movement of Heckel Tavares’ Concerto em Formas Brasileiras. All the insertions of this music accompany Luzia’s search for Jasão. Diegues himself considered Tavares’ composition as "the film’s main theme". At another moment, we hear Heitor Villa-Lobos’ "4ª Suíte [Primeira Missa no Brasil]" from his Descobrimento do Brasil. Its modern and dreamlike quality is totally appropriate for Inácio’s hallucination scene. Another interesting example is the use of the composition "Que noites eu passo", by A. J. S. Monteiro: the excerpt with harp, chorus and orchestra recalls the liturgical repertoire and is heard when Inácio and Luzia take shelter from the confusion in a church, and Inácio complains about Carnival’s "impurity".
Another striking moment in the soundtrack is the use of works for solo guitar that usually have the narrative function of representing different phases of Jasão’s relationship with Luzia. The compositions used are "Estudo nº 11", from a series of twelve studies; and the "Mazurka-Choro", the first movement of Suíte Popular Brasileira; both by Heitor Villa-Lobos.
There are three diegetic insertions of Carnival-like drumming in the soundtrack in order to reflect what is seen on screen. These insertions serve to situate the story in time, first when Luzia arrives in Rio and sees a samba group rehearsing. Later, when Carnival week takes over the city while the story unravels until we reach the climax at the end of the film, when both Luzia and Jasão die on Ash Wednesday, closing the story and Carnival.
The only music composed specifically for the film is "A Grande Cidade" by Zé Keti [1921-1999]. This homonymous song acts as the film’s main theme and its lyrics reflect the narrative on the screen. This song’s relationship with the film takes place, above all, by being part of the story; it could even be considered as a character itself. At the start of the film, the song is being sold in a market and becomes the main theme of Carnival that year. Later, the song is heard while Calunga runs through the streets of Rio de Janeiro tripping over homeless people and the trash left behind after a week of partying. At that moment, the song’s optimistic lyrics contrast with what is shown on the screen, resignifying it.
Another of the film music’s characteristics is its use of a series of songs with a specific purpose of commenting on the narrative in the style of the chorus in a Greek tragedy. At times, they are heard within the scenes, but their use is clearly non-diegetic and their understanding is an integral part of the audiovisual context. An unifying characteristic of these songs is that they allow the viewers to situate the action in time, since they are portraying the period in which the story takes place with songs that either were hits or were played in the years that preceded the film’s release, which also results in a better and faster assimilation by the audience.
In an interview, Diegues commented on the film’s music: "Today it would probably be more expensive to make the film’s music using pre-recorded songs than creating an original score. [...] this now has another value in the cinematographic and phonographic markets, but at that time it was actually much cheaper. And we used records largely because they were cheaper". In other words, the financial aspect was one of the determining factors for the esthetics of the film music since the payment of royalties was not as expensive and films using pre-existing compositions drastically reduced the costs. However, the abundant use of works by Villa-Lobos is also connected to a nationalistic esthetic vein of the Cinema Novo movement in the 1960s, when more than a dozen of films used music by the composer in their productions.
It is worth recalling that the film’s opening and closing credits are somewhat vague and do not describe in detail the music used. For this reason, it was relatively difficult to identify the authors of many of the compositions.
Moacir Santos’ role as music director in A Grande Cidade is remarkable, comparable to the work he did as composer for other films. In both roles, we realize that his approach is similar because his refined choice of material to dialogue with the film narratives add cohesion to the works, besides poetically structuring them.