Judge Neal Solon is The Man Who Reviewed The Man Who Copied.
Falling in love can make you do some crazy things…
Does a week in the life of a twenty-year-old photocopy machine operator sound interesting you? Not really? I don't blame you. This film, however, should. The Man Who Copied would have piqued my interest even if its main character's life were as mundane as that of the average twenty-year-old. (It's not, by the way.) The style in which the story is told, and the likeability of the actors on screen, were enough to distinguish it from some films of a similar ilk. When you immediately buy into the lives of the people on screen, being entertained for a couple of hours is easy.
Facts of the Case
André (Lázaro Ramos, Madame Satá, The 3 Marias) operates a photocopier in a suburban stationary shop. Not surprisingly, this uninteresting and financially unrewarding profession doesn't light a fire in Brazil's most eligible bachelorettes. In fact, it tends to extinguish them.
To win over Silvia (Leandra Leal), the girl who lives across the street in an apartment he can see from his bedroom, André's sure he's going to need an interesting job and some money. So, when he finally introduces himself to her, he tells her that he makes his living as an illustrator. It's only a half lie. He does draw comics in his spare time, but he still needs to find a way to come up with cash.
There are a series of scenes in the exposition of The Man Who Copied that serve as a good model by which to understand André's life. He stands at a copy machine making multiple copies of essays, books, and Shakespeare poems, among other things. As each successive copy spits out of the machine, André eyes its contents, reading a line, or maybe two, before the next copy slides out on top of it. If he is making multiple copies of the same page, André reads as much as he can, line by line—but he never finishes reading. Inevitably, the job is finished before he reaches the end of the page, and he must move on. André must be content with fragments.
He lives his life this way too, in fragments. Everything is compartmentalized. André has a job. He has his mother. He has a passion for cartooning. He has a habit of watching Silvia, the girl who lives across the street. But these things seemingly each exist in separate worlds. It is not until André forces himself out of his insular existence that he realizes just how interrelated everything in the world really is. When he does, his world becomes a tangled web of deception, money, love, and lust.
This sort of web of vice and distraction is not uncommon in the film world, but what is atypical about this film is its style and its tone. The Man Who Copies has a self-assured strut to its delivery that is pleasantly reminiscent of Amélie. André introduces himself to the viewer in an internal monologue-like voice-over while the viewer is shown snapshots, sometimes caricatures, of each of the constants in his life: work, home, mom, the girl across the street. The presentation is a playful and wry look at a mundane existence. After about thirty minutes of this sort of introduction, however, things change. André becomes an active decision maker in his life, rather than continuing to accept it the way it is. He decides that he wants Silvia, and that to get Silvia he needs money, so he actively pursues them both. Taking an active role in his own life, André discovers that the world and his influence in it are different that he imagined. He also changes the direction of the film.
It is as this transition occurs that some people may find issue with the film's themes. One reading of The Man Who Copied could lead to the conclusion that money solves all problems, no matter how you get it. André gets money through a variety of illicit means; and while he sometimes finds himself in potentially compromising situations, he always escapes unscathed. More remarkable is the fact that, in the end, André gets everything that he wants. It never would have flown in Hays-code era Hollywood, but getting distracted by it here threatens to undermine an enjoyable experience with unnecessary moral and ethical intellectualizing.
That The Man Who Copied is as fun and engrossing as it is is due, in large part, to its cast. It is especially important that André be a sympathetic character, or the whole story built around him collapses. Fortunately, Lázaro Ramos's André is believable and endearing, as is his relationship with the equally charming Silvia, played by Leandra Leal. The supporting cast also turn in good performances that highlight the essential traits of their characters without making the resulting personas flat and static.
The Man Who Copied also benefits from stylish cinematography that complements the quirkily told story. The film is colorful, at times muted and at others vibrant. The DVD from TLA International does a solid job of presenting these images as director Jorge Furtado intended them to be seen, preserving both the original aspect ratio and the original palette. The sound, too, is effective. Presented in either a Dolby Digital Stereo mix or a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix, the audio tracks effectively carry the dialogue, the soundtrack, and the effects. The surround mix, unsurprisingly, expands the soundstage a bit by putting much of the score and soundtrack in the rear channels, but listening to the default stereo track provides just as good an experience.
Rounding out the DVD presentation is a meager handful of extras. First up is a breezy, 17-minute-long "making of" featurette. This extra is a good mix of clips from the film, bloopers, interviews with the actors and the director, and technical information. While there's nothing profound said here, the featurette is worth watching after having seen the film itself. Watching it before the film will, unfortunately, reveal some plot elements that are better left for discovery on one's own. The only other pertinent supplements are a theatrical trailer and a photo gallery containing seven photos, all but two of which appear, less severely cropped, on the outside of the DVD's case. Also included in the interest of self-promotion are four trailers for other TLA releases.
The Man Who Copied was a pleasant surprise. It is a smile-inducing film that is quite enjoyable when taken at face value, and one that I anticipate watching again. It has an offbeat style, yet it feels authentic—not as though Furtado is trying his own hand at copying. It's a shame that this film hasn't garnered more attention. Well acted, well photographed, and well told—it's worth checking out.
All parties involved in the making of The Man Who Copied are free to go. The court will be watching your future actions with great interest. Case dismissed!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: TLA Releasing
• The Making of The Man Who Copied
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