Nosferato On Brasil (1971)

You’ve got to pick your battles. No one understands this more than Ivan Cardoso.

Before directing his own films, Cardoso was a protege of José Mojica Marins aka Coffin Joe. He helped out on Marins’s sets, usually as a cameraman or assistant director. And that’s enough to watch any Cardoso movie, because any friend of Coffin Joe’s is a friend of yours. But Cardoso didn’t learn as much as he should have from his friend’s efficiency. As time went on, his films, like The Seven Vampires, relied less on abstract, horror-themed imagery and more on jokes. But not good jokes with resolution or payoff. Cardoso’s later films were not funny. Or entertaining. He wasn’t making movies with an audience in mind.

Nosferato On Brasil is Cardoso’s first attempt at creating a narrative film. Obviously, there are a lot of hurdles to overcome when trying to do this, like coming up with a story. Cardoso didn’t want the hassle. So he just put on a vampire cape, invited some friends over to his house, and pulled the trigger on a Super 8 camera for 30 minutes. The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix were also invited. They didn’t show up, but their music did.

Nosferato and a woman sit on a bench together. They move in for a kiss. The woman finds out that Nosferato is a vampire, so she screams and runs. He chases her, catches her, and bites her. Blood flows like barbecue sauce. Then Nosferato confronts a man in his backyard. The man looks like a swashbuckler because he has a sword. The sword ends up in Nosferato’s face. The film turns from black and white to color and many things happen on beaches, in cemeteries, and in cars. Most of these things involve Nosferato chasing women who are wearing bikinis. There’s also a scene of him sipping a drink out of a coconut. He’s wearing his vampire cape. And a speedo.

When this movie was made in 1971, it meant nothing. Nobody cared. It was just a bunch of stoned hippies getting together and messing around with a camera. That was happening a lot back then, with underground sex movies like Surfside Sex and Psyched By The 4-D Witch. Today, Nosferato On Brasil still means nothing. It’s still just a bunch of hippies messing around with a camera. But four decades of hindsight can do a lot for a movie.

Jonas Mekas’s Walden: Diaries, Notes & Sketches is a four hour time capsule of life in 1969. It’s Mekas living and documenting his experiences with a Super 8 camera. Since Mekas was (and still is) a talented filmmaker, Walden is not only engaging from a topical standpoint, but also visually. It’s a rare example of free-form experimentation that instills awe, rather than agony. Ivan Cardoso is not Jonas Mekas. Where Mekas captured a surreal first performance of The Velvet Underground on film, Cardoso captured The Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request playing on his record player. But today, Nosferato serves the same purpose. It’s a document. A document that just happens to have shots of vampire girls cracking up while they attack a guy who’s wearing striped underwear.

This movie contains no deeper meanings. The presentation is inconsistent (songs are abruptly cut off and replaced with long gaps of silence) and very little creativity was put forth to make things happen. This is a lazy movie, made by lazy people who were fascinated with capturing something — anything — with a camera. Despite all of this, I can’t remember the last time that something so pointless made me feel so relaxed. And content. Maybe Cardoso wasn’t so oblivious after all.

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