Hard Labor (DVD)
Directed by Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra
In HARD LABOR, a middle-class couple slowly succumbs to the allures of entrepreneurship and the horrors of a schizophrenic job market. As Helena (Helena Albergaria) starts a new business venture (a small grocery store), her white-collar husband Otávio (Marat Descartes) is let go from his job. Determined to stay afloat, Otávio goes on a series of ego-crushing job interviews and is forced to adapt to the needs of a new economy. And Helena, now the family’s breadwinner, discovers that the building housing her store has a sinister past. Beautifully translating the evanescent forces of cyber-age economics into a Grand Guignol of kitchen-sink sensibilities, HARD LABOR is unlike any other Brazilian film you’ve seen in the last decade.
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The filmmakers, largely forgoing a soundtrack, skillfully manipulate stillness, silence and anomie to unsettling effect - at times evoking the ambient dread and decay of, say, Roman Polanski's "Repulsion."
Hard Labor is a smart, sneaky little shocker whose subtexts add depth to its haunted-house framework and pay off in a final scene that's both weirdly off-kilter and entirely logical.
At its best, the film has the quality of a nightmare, one that keeps happening whether the characters are asleep or awake.
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