Diamantino is an absurdist delight
Reader, were I to attempt to recount the plot of Diamantino to you, I fear you'd think I was making it up. It's not that a movie about an international soccer star adopting a refugee whilst undergoing genetic modification for a fascist government's propaganda department in order to fuel his evil twin sisters' offshore accounts doesn't make sense, it's just that I'm not sure it makes sense if you're not currently watching it unfold. And fear not, I don't even think those details can be considered spoilers as they're found in the one-sentence boilerplate description for this movie everywhere I've looked it up.
If this sounds absurd, it's because it very much is. Dan Scully described this to me as Danger: Diabolik meets Zoolander, and that's about as apt a description I can think of that would make sense to most readers. There's an independent film from 2014 called I Am A Knife With Legs, and it's the only true comparison point I can think of, as another movie that uses absurdism of the highest order to address current political issues like the rise of isolationist agendas around the world. What it actually has to say about these issues beyond "that's fucked up, fight the power" I'm not really sure, but I'm very much OK with media that makes that blanket statement, especially right now, and especially when it's this fun and funny.
Filmmakers Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt clearly have a love for b-grade action movies of the 70's, combining plot lines from at least seven different movies that culminate in a finale so nonsensical that if this were any other movie I would assume it was re-shot and tacked on after studio notes on the initial cut. But I have to imagine the truth is that they love the Italian-made schlock that Tarantino has built a career on referencing and have attempted to recreate the tonal shifts and absurd plot twists that often occurred in those films. They go so hard at it that you're eventually confronted with sex scenes that have just enough context to be both extremely silly and deeply troubling at the same time, and that really is some kind of insane accomplishment that I'm not sure I have the words to properly praise.
That's this movie top to bottom, really. I don't know how to describe it, praise it, or criticize it. I just know that I really loved it and laughed heartily throughout. In lieu of better writing on my part, the following basics are worth noting:
1) Carloto Cotta's performance as Diamantino is the funniest I've seen in any movie this year
2) Fluffy puppies can never be big enough
3) No other movie this year has made me think more about the state of the world
This last point is worth expanding on a bit. While I've already addressed how shallow the film may in fact be regarding the rise of neofascism and other global issues like the refugee crisis, it's the way it addresses them through the lens of celebrity that I think is unique to this movie and ends up feeling vital. Diamantino is, frankly, a moron. So self-obsessed and coddled by his celebrity that he is seemingly unaware of the state of the world, and in this way represents both actual celebrities and the consumers that create them. A lot of comedy is mined out of his discovery of how difficult and troubling global politics are, and even more out of his idiotic attempts to address them. The movie feels particularly incisive when it's tying our obsession with celebrity to its inability to have any meaningful effect on the world. And yet it simultaneously gives us a hero to look up to in Diamantino, as he doesn't use his celebrity to shield himself from politics once his eyes have been opened to them. He dives in head first when he discovers the world is in disarray, knowing that it is his duty, not as a celebrity, but as a human being, to at least try and do something about the state of things.
Are you getting the picture of just how absurd this movie is yet? It's so absurd that it's got me making absurd claims about how absurdly necessary its absurdism is, and that only proves how absurd our day-to-day lives have become. A movie like Diamontino could only make sense in 2019, and it might be the movie I most recommend people need to see this year, if for no other reason than giant fluffy puppies will make your brain feel good (I mentioned the giant fluffy puppies, right?). But there is another reason, and that's to remind you to stop being complacent, which by some miracle this movie manages to do without feeling like it's bludgeoning you over the head. And by some greater miracle it manages to do this without undermining itself as a comedy. It's truly the most remarkable movie I've seen so far this year.
Diamontino opens today at the Ritz Bourse.