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Motel Destino: Ainouz makes the film we’ve been waiting for from Baker

A film by Karim Aïnouz

With: Iago Xavier, Nataly Rocha, Fábio Assunção, Yuri Yamamoto, Fabíola Líper, Renan Capivara, Jupyra Carvalho, Isabela Catão

Dayana lives an abusive marriage with former police officer Elias, owner of Motel Destino. When 21-year-old Heraldo finds himself at the motel after messing up a hit and going on the run, Dayana finds herself intrigued and lets him stay. As the two navigate a dance of power and desire, a dangerous plan for freedom emerges.

With Motel Destino, Karim Ainouz takes a radical step away from the stylish but cold Firebrand, towards a much more arty style of cinema. Based on a simple sensory grammar, Motel Destino veers towards the film trip. It connects with impulses, desire, danger, violence, death, repressed homosexuality… It also connects with intentions seen in Harmony Korine, Gaspar Noé (beyond the simple color filter), Werner Herzog, Claire Denis, Robbe-Grillet and Daniel Duval (La dérobade).

We thought – wrongly this year – that Sean Baker was capable of delivering a work that combines an assertive aesthetic intention, unambiguously and forcefully defended – even if outside modern canons – with a far more humble part, that of evoking (and not using) a region of the world and its inhabitants, of giving an account of another side of the truth, known to the natives and a few slightly curious tourists (we’ll call them travelers) who don’t stop at the postcard. Over and above its romanticized aspect – a necessary escape, a runaway to come, but suspended for the time of a safe house), Motel Destino thus fits perfectly into a territory that Ainouz depicts (the word sounds right, he endeavors to reinforce the colors of the landscapes and the natural settings of the motels on screen) with sincerity. In so doing, he casts a naturalistic – documentary – eye on motels, the Nordeste (Céara, Fortaleza), Brazil’s social classes and pervasive discrimination. It also evokes, both in the field and in the counter-field, the hypersexuality so typical of Brazil – and particularly of the most underprivileged social strata. As we said, this cinematographic proposal takes us back to other cinemas that were once given greater prominence, a sensory and raw cinema, which assumes to disturb by its subject and the stance it adopts (but does not aim to provoke or shock, another register that is very much out of fashion).

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