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One of the most acclaimed films of the year, CENTRAL STATION is a profoundly moving tale of the human spirit, featuring an unforgettable lead performance by Fernanda Montenegro (Best Actress Winner, National Board of Review). Inside Rio de Janeiro's bustling Central Station, two very unlikely soulsare about to become inextricably linked. When a young boy (Vinicius de Oliveira) witnesses his mother's accidental death, a lonely retired school teacher reluctantly takes the child under her wing. Although initially distrustful of each other, the two form an uncommon bond as they venture from the bustling city to Brazil's barren and remote northeast region in search of the boy's father. Together, the two embark on a journey of the heart that restores the woman's spirit and teaches the child precious life lessons. A powerful tear-jerker of uncommon grace and heart, CENTRAL STATION is destinedto become a classic.
In the opening scenes of Central Station, colorful crowds of Brazilians stream into and out of a Rio de Janeiro train, pushing through doors and windows. You're immediately pulled into the brutal vitality of a nation in motion, setting the tone for a picturesque road movie that charts Brazil's renaissance in a little boy's search for his father and an old woman's emotional reawakening. When we first meet Dora (Fernanda Montenegro), this frozen-hearted, sour-faced woman is the epitome of immobility: day after day, she sits in the train station selling her letter-writing skills to all comers, but often doesn't bother to mail these precious messages. When a woman who's paid Dora to write a pleading note to her son's long-missing dad gets run over by a bus, the child, Josue (Vinicius de Oliveira), is up for grabs. (The summary execution of a thieving street kid--in longshot--underscores the seriousness of this waif's plight.) After an abortive attempt to sell Josue for a new TV, the aspiring couch potato finds herself reluctantly propelled into an occasionally Fellini-esque odyssey through the hinterlands of Brazil's sertäo, where Dora and her sidekick find unexpected faith and family. Former documentary filmmaker Walter Salles (Foreign Land) mixes magic with realism in his appreciation of striking faces and places, but Central Station is primarily fueled by the tough/tender performances of Montenegro, Brazil's Judy Dench, and de Oliveira, an airport shoeshine boy Salles cast over 1,500 other hopefuls. (Montenegro was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, and Central Station was in the running for Best Foreign Language Film.) No cloyingly cute child-star, de Oliveira plays Josue as a bracingly idiosyncratic brat. And watching Dora's face and soul slowly, unwillingly unclench as she gets back in motion--and emotion--is potent pleasure, even if Salles's trip does dead-end in soap opera as his Brazilian pilgrim's progress winds down. --Kathleen Murphy
- Aspect Ratio : 2.35:1
- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- MPAA rating : R (Restricted)
- Product Dimensions : 7.5 x 5.5 x 0.5 inches; 4 Ounces
- Item model number : 043396038332
- Director : Walter Salles
- Media Format : Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, Anamorphic, NTSC
- Run time : 2 minutes
- Release date : July 13, 1999
- Actors : Fernanda Montenegro, Vinicius De Oliveira, Marilia Pera
- Dubbed: : Portuguese
- Subtitles: : English
- Producers : Robert Redford, Arthur Cohn, Martine De Clermont-Tonnerre, Walter Salles
- Language : Portuguese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), Unqualified
- Studio : Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
- ASIN : B00000F5KH
- Number of discs : 1
- Best Sellers Rank: #77,787 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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First to Salles. His script reads like a game of chess. The different moves made by the ageing hag, Dora, and the engaging but brutish young Josue are played out in an exciting counterpoint that brings a check-mate or a stale-mate perilously close on one occasion after another right to the very end, that I will not divulge. How this see-saw of fortunes over a 113 minute screening could be too long and too boring for some reviewers beats me: maybe they permanently need a continuous infusion of amphetamines to keep them alert. The camera work and the editing are exceptional. The entire narrative is built through a series of confrontations that are brutally cut to speed the momentum. Within each, we have animated close-ups that are riveting, often of fascinating side-shows that are not essential to the plot but add greatly to what the film gives us: a stunning lesson in the sociology and anthropology of this enormously misunderstood country and the society that has emerged from its very varied population. Searing pictures of husbands, wives, lovers, dictating their wildest dreams and hopes to the callous scribe, Dora, who will probably toss the letters for which she is handsomely paid into the waste-basket, leap from the screen. One such, from Josue's mother to the boy's father who may or may not still be living in a village thousands of miles from Rio that they left several years earlier, keeps resurfacing like a leitmotif at crucial points in the plot. It is the search for this village and this person that provides the main skeleton of the plot, in a journey that allows us to become acquainted with the starkly awesome interior of the country and the poverty, ignorance, and incredible superstition of its inhabitants. The latter characteristic is vividly depicted during an orgiastic religious celebration that calls to mind another celebrated Brazilian movie: Marcel Camus' BLACK ORPHEUS. To a relatively simple and potentially sentimental story, Salles has brought a level of cynicism and sophistication that at times can be breathless. The motives and desires of Dora and Josue, and even of peripheral characters such as the kindly lorry driver they encounter, can change almost without warning and yet when you think about it, they are the outcome of guilt, resentment, fear, and remorse that are perfectly logical and should never have surprised us in the first place. There is nothing manipulative in any of these twists and turns, because the chemistry that creates the action is deep inside the characters all along. In other words, this is not a film to weep about, but one to THINK about. But weep if you must. There is enough sadness, joy, despair and hope in this 113 minutes to stimulate every emotion in our being, and it is beautifully epitomised by the closing sequence of Josue growing smaller and smaller as he runs towards the receding bus, and then large again in the very last close-up shot.
Visually, this transfer offers excellent sharpness and crisp subtitles in English. You don't HAVE to put up with the commentary although I found it quite perceptive. The musical sound track is exemplary: almost minimalistic, but welcome when it is present, unlike that of BLACK ORPHEUS that nearly drove me crazy. My single grouch is that the Special Features on the Menu of my Columbia-Tristar DVD offered me only the trailer instead of the advertised interviews and biographies; but I made on attempt to return my copy. Even without these features, whatever they are, there is enough great film-making and acting to justify describing the $8 cost of this DVD as one of the best bargains around.
Then a terrible tragedy happens that no one else notices - a little boy loses his mother - and she is challenged to respond. That the feisty lovable little boy is played by an amazingly good actor, a non-professional, who became a sensation in Brazil as a result of this movie, is part of its power.
This movie has more plot twists than you will believe, or be ready for. But they are so plausible, in the context of the harsh, colorful, roiling times of the Brazil of the early 90's - and the characters are so appealing - that you are carried along, heart in your throat, right up to the not-at all-inevitable conclusion.
I won't spoil it - I'll just say that this movie is about how people can rediscover their own goodness, even when they have seemingly lost it forever. You will believe it when you see it.
When the mother gets killed in an automobile accident, the boy desperately needs the letter writer as a link to his father. An act of greed on her part sends them into each other's orbit. They begin a crosscountry odyssey looking for the father. Throughout the movie and on that journey we see how the lower end of the economic ladder live in Brazil.
It's a movie with compassion, a warm feeling, a feel-good movie. We see good people and acts of kindness. The spinster evolves, learns a great deal about herself as the story progresses and as she grows fond of the boy. The spinster is turned around by the persistent, insistent boy whose single-minded goal is finding his father. She almost finds romance with a good-hearted truck driver, but that proves elusive when he keeps on trucking.
You'll feel some tearjerking sentimentality, but the movie shows how the humanity of people can build bonds.
It's a movie with superb acting, a gentle touch, and insights into what makes us tick as human beings when faced by adversity.
In contrast to my expectations, this was a very moving and touching story/movie. The acting is raw, genuine, and heart-wrenching. I cried at the beginning and I cried at the end.
Kids--especially boys--and regardless of their culture--want their dads. This story covers the psychological and physical search of a boy for his dad, albeit through challenging circumstances. The 'story' that happens along that journey is intense and heart-felt.
Anyhow, the movie flows well and it 'held' me throughout. It's almost like a love story on so many levels; child-to-adult, adult-to-child, friend-to-friend, brother-to-brother, community-to-community, stranger-to-stranger. The movie speaks to the invisible thread that ties 'family,' be it in our memories, experiences, or fantasy.
Top reviews from other countries
Anyone who doesn't at least have a huge lump in their throat at the end of this movie doesn't have a heart themselves.
Quite simply magnificent film making.
The central themes of this film are loss, loneliness and longing for love. These themes are omnipresent in the film; in the words of the poor, illiterate souls whose letters Dora will never send; in young Josue, who has lost his mother and longs to find his missing father; in the evangelist truck driver, who finds solace from the loneliness of the open road in his religious faith; and in Dora and Irene, retired schoolteachers living alone as spinsters.
Fernando Montenegro's outstanding portrayal of the bitter and cynical Dora captivates right from the beginning. Movement is centrifugal to the film, such as the passing of the daily trains and commuters through Rio station; Josue angrily chasing the train carrying Dora early in film, and vainly running after the bus taking Dora back to Rio at the end of the film.
Dora's hoarding of the unsent letters in her flat unconsciously reflects the lack of resolution in her own life, which has led to her being querulous and dissatisfied in old age. In spite of many stops and starts, she finds resolution, and restoration of her faith in humanity, through the journey which introduces Josue to his brothers and leaves him with the hope of seeing his errant father. The film ends poignantly with Dora writing a letter to Josue, on her bus journey back to Rio, telling him never to forget her as he embarks on the long journey of life.
Outwardly a road movie, Central Station is ultimately a story of redemption and self-discovery, acted with amazing confidence by the boy Josue (Vinicius de Oliviera) and Dora, played by the worthily Oscar-nominated Fernanda Montenegro. This is brilliant acting, totally convincing warts-and-all performances by both players. Watch this film for the acting, if nothing else. Both are survivors, tough as old boots and hardened to life's knocks. Josue's hunt for his elusive father keeps the odd couple together despite their apparent mutual antipathy and frequent departures. Like Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation, their true feelings are only revealed at the very end.
Perhaps it's not the done thing to say this, but even a 40-something hard-boiled cinematic veteran like me found this moving. I was in tears more than once, something a million Hollywood tear-jerkers failed to achieve. Why? Simply, this is honest, naked and totally believable human emotion. This is what it's all about.