For once we have a clown movie that isn't concerned with warping childrens' folklore caricatures into ominous psychokillers, instead Bingo: The King of the Mornings is about a successful TV clown who gets bogged down by the trappings of fame. Augusto Mendez (Vladimir Brichta), the man behind the thick white concealer, the gelled bright blue hair and the bulbous red nose, is a struggling actor whose fortunes shift once he takes on the role of Bingo, the clown, and goes on to dominate Brazilian daytime television. The screenplay is inspired by the real-life tale of Arlindo Barreto, the actor who played Bozo the Clown in Brazil throughout the 1980s. Director Daniel Rezende chose to avoid copyrights claim and retain creative freedom by not using either the name Bozo or Arlindo, adopting the fictional names of Bingo and Augusto, respectively; creating a masterful output, which par some minor glitches of plot predictability, is a sophisticated and impressively well-acted feature.
Filled with irony and humour, Bingo is an exaggerated pop look of the backstage universe of 80's Brazilian television. Augusto is a dashingly handsome wannabe actor, a divorcee with a son, with aspirations for the spotlight; determined to follow in his mother’s footsteps (Ana Lúcia Torre), a well-known stage artist in the 50's. Tired of the soft porn stints he's offered, we see a lot of Augusto’s rear in the beginning, he gets his big break when he scores the audition for Bingo, a host clown for a kid’s daytime TV Show. After much resistance and power struggles with his over-controlling production team, the show ends up becoming a massive success. However, a clause in his contract forbids Augusto from ever revealing his true identity.
Augusto’s son Gabriel (Cauã Martins) becomes dismayed as he perceives his father distancing himself, loosing him to his newfound celebrity. In reality, Augusto is descending into his own personal decay of drink and cocaine, as the sensation of anonymous superstardom slowly turns sour, the role of Bingo becomes a prison, squeezing out any artistic integrity and any real recognition.
Its Brazil’s entry for the Oscars, for foreign film, as well as Rezende’s debut as a director; already known within the industry as a notable film editor, an Oscar nominated one at that, for films such as City of God, The Motorcycle Diaries, Terence Malik’s The Tree of Life and blockbuster Robocop. Rezende strikes gold with Bingo, his scrupulous attention to detail bestows us with these lush aesthetics and retro camera work that genuinely feel that its being filmed at the time on 35mm. The uber stylish cinematography of Lula Carvalho gives a blurry VHS sheen and texture attributing to an 80s decadent nostalgia mixed in with a heavy dose of charming masculinity, reminiscent of Tom Cruise‘s hay day flicks Top Gun and Cocktail.
Brichta is superb as the self-obsessed Augusto and the spiky, comedic clown. His Bingo is punchy and acerbic, but with a heart of gold, always rooting for the outsider, ridiculing the classroom bully. Bingo is an avenue for Augusto to channel his creativeness, mischievousness, his frustration and subsequently a cover-up for the hang-overs. As Augusto, Brichta is equally on point, exhibiting perfectly the physiognomies of a big, unquenchable ego; the constant need for attention and praise, fast cars, continuous stream of women and unrestrained cocaine use.
There are several moments where it is rather obvious of where things are going, a frequently revisited territory: the excess of fame, drug abuse and the trickle-down effects on disappointed family members, but it’s all presented in such an alluring and sensationalistic fashion, that as a viewer you can’t help but be swept away!
Words by Daniel Theophanous @danny_theo_