Movie: Carandiru

Length: 2 hours, 28 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Release Date: 2004-08-13
Cast: Caio Blat, Gero Camilo, Luis Carlos Vasconceros, Milton Goncalves, Nelson Machado
Director: Hector Babenco
Screenwriter: Hector Babenco, Fernando Bonassi, Drauzio Varella
Music Score: Andre Abujamra
WorkNameSort: Carandiru
Our Rating: 4.00

When we tell you that this film concerns a doctor working to stem the spread of AIDS in a Brazilian prison – and that it runs nearly two and a half hours – you'll probably prime yourself for an uphill death march of sanctimony. It's a relief, then, to report that the eminently watchable Carandiru is instead an anthology of crime dramas hung on a framework of big-house sociology. While their committed physician administers blood tests and teaches health-protection techniques, the possibly infected inmates tell stories of their ill-fated underworld careers. These bloody anecdotes – dramatized for us on the screen – make the movie a little bit City of God and a little bit Amores Perros (and thus a whole lotta Tarantino), yet no matter how contrived the format seems at times, every one of the hard-luck tales is violently good pulp. It's also fascinating to see how AIDS is regarded in the jail – as both a feared scourge and an exploitable shortcut to special privileges. Fallow point of the movie: A prison-wedding subplot that was a tad too Corporal Klinger for my taste.