“The natives are barbarous savages — different from us, and without any religion.”
In 16th century Brazil, a French mercenary (Arduano Colassanti) is mistaken for Portuguese and captured by a tribe of Indians, who tell him he has eight months to live before being eaten.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Historical Drama
- Native Peoples
- South and Central America
This uneven yet compelling film by director Nelson Pereira dos Santos is a classic of Brazil’s cinema novo movement, which emphasized a reliance on native Brazilian aesthetic sensibilities and a break with cinematic conventions. It’s a cynical and subversive look at colonialism in 16th century South America, told through the non-idealized story of Indians dealing with the rape of their land in the only way they know how: through native traditions. This includes capturing and eating their enemies (the Portuguese), in order to literally ingest their “strength” — in other words, cannibalism. It’s to Pereira dos Santos’s credit that this element of the film is never sensationalized. In fact, he makes every effort to present the Indians’ lifestyle as “natural” — including their near-absence of clothing. Not surprisingly, Brazilian censors had a problem with this lack of modesty, and prevented the film from being shown for a year after it was made; but it’s a testament to the film’s ethnographic authenticity that the nudity quickly seems commonplace, and never exploitative. While How Tasty is a provocative and disturbing film in many ways, however, it’s not uniformly successful. This is primarily due to the opening montage sequence, which misrepresents the film as a comedy; though it certainly possesses satirical elements (the title alone is evidence of this), it’s not really a farce. Once this brief sequence is over, however, it’s remarkably easy to get caught up in the travails of Arduano Colassanti’s “Frenchman” — whose fate remains uncertain until the very end.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- A compelling pseudo-ethnographic look at the Tupinambas tribe of Brazil
- The Frenchman’s new wife describing to him what his cannibalism ritual will be like
- Beautiful natural settings
- The haunting final images
Yes, as an acknowledged classic of Brazilian cinema novo.
- Foreign Gem
- Important Director