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  How Tasty was My Little Frenchman We Are Going To Eat YouBuy this film here.
Year: 1971
Director: Nelson Pereira dos Santos
Stars: Arduíno Colassanti, Ana Maria Magalhães, Eduardo Imbassahy Filho, Manfredo Colassanti, José Kléber, Gabriel Archanjo
Genre: Historical, Adventure
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: The time is the late sixteenth century, the place is Brazil, and the subject of our story is one of the invading Frenchmen (Arduíno Colassanti). He has hit a bad patch in his life in that he has been branded a troublemaker by the French authorities and sentenced to death. He is chained to an iron ball and dropped in the ocean, but against the odds he survives and stumbles ashore further up the coast. However, he is not safe yet as he is captured by native Indians who believe he is Portuguese and therefore an ally of their enemy tribe. Can the Frenchman persuade them otherwise? He has a few months to try...

And the reason he has a few months is that he has been adopted by the tribe. This was writer and director Nelson Pereira dos Santos' tale of the inevitability of fate set in the Brazilian jungle and almost entirely conducted in an obscure native language that hardly anyone who saw the film would be able to understand, and this was years before Mel Gibson thought of picking up a director's megaphone. But that wasn't the most controversial aspect of the film, as what really got people's backs up was the fact that almost all the characters spend most of the story naked.

This was chiefly for authenticity, but remember Brazil was labouring under its military dictatorship at the time the film was made, and their conservative ways were not lenient towards such things as having the star of the film, Colassanti (an erstwhile surfer who had nothing to be ashamed of, ladies), starkers for much of his screen time. This meant a ban in its home country, and not only that but a rejection for the official selection at the Cannes Film Festival for its characters' exposure, but really there's nothing sexualised about the nudity, and after a while the novelty wears off so you can concentrate on the story.

That story takes the form of an adventure, but whereas the likes of The Emerald Forest took a romanticised view of its natives, here they can be warlike and ignorant as well as sensitive and well-meaning. So when the Frenchman who they all think is Portuguese is informed he can stay in the tribe, he sees a ray of hope when one of the traders he encounters tells him that he might be back to liberate him after some business he has to take care of - on the other hand, he doesn't tell the Indians that their new friend is actually French and therefore an ally.

So begins a process of assimilation as the Frenchman sheds his clothes and shaves his head so better to blend in, perhaps believing he will win his captors over. He even takes a wife (Ana Maria Magalhães), and their relationship is unexpectedly tender, far more than the circumstances that have brought them together might have otherwise allowed. To further curry favour, he teaches the tribesmen to use the cannons the army has left behind, and they manage to vanquish their foes in the process. But what is the title? That's right, How Tasty was My Little Frenchman, and that is because after all he has done for them, the natives still plan to eat him once they have the upper hand in the region. The only really sensual scene arrives, perversely, when the Frenchman's wife playfully tells him of the ritual that will see him killed and eaten, and as the story has the structure of a sick joke of inevitability, it's cruelly appropriate it should end the way it does, though that doesn't make it more satisfying. Music by Guilherme Magalhães Vaz and José Rodrix.

Aka: Como Era Gostoso o Meu Francês.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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