Publication: TheMovieWaffler, December 8th 2017

Tired of appearing in softcore pornography and dismissed by soap opera directors, Augusto Mendes (Vladimir Brichta) decides to audition for the Brazilian version of Bingo the Clown and do something his son Gabriel can be proud of.

After some crude improvisation lands Augusto the role, his unique take entertains the kids and puts the show at the top of the ratings. His focus on all the kids in Brazil leads him to neglect his own, and a hard-partying lifestyle off camera starts to catch up with him.

Brichta brings a maniacal humour to the role of Bingo, encapsulating the sort of enthusiasm and maverick personality required to make for a successful clown. He is also able to send up the stuffy American origins of the show personified by Peter Olsen (Soren Hellerup). By the time sultry dancer Gretchen (Emanuelle Araujo) is strutting her stuff in front of Bingo and crowds of cheering kids, it is clear by Augusto’s willpower the show has become a peculiarly Brazilian hit.

This self-belief to a point of arrogance is played off against strait-laced producer Lucia (Leandra Leal) insisting everything be done by the book. It’s a cliched relationship, and for all of Augusto’s pestering, we are never able to delve into her character deeper than the fact she is Christian.

The highlights of the film come from Bingo on set as he really settles into the role and is able to entertain the kids in the studio as well as at home. There is also an entertaining wackiness to his off screen antics as he snorts lines and copulates in public bathrooms, all while dressed in clown mask and spiked blue hair.

This is the second major clown movie this year after It. Anyone with coulrophobia should stay well away from this one also, as the dastardly antics of Augusto in full gear will cause fright. Bingo and Pennywise could make good counterparts if this clown ever made the transition to horror.

Augusto has not one but two dark night of the soul moments on camera dressed as Bingo, and the film lingers on the clown’s downfall. The relationship with Augusto and his son is nothing not seen before, and doesn’t quite have the emotional resonance required.

Director Daniel Rezende has made some of the camera work in this rise and fall biopic impressive, bordering on the spectacular. A long tracking shot the first time Augusto is in full costume as Bingo is also able to show off the television set that has been constructed and early tensions with Lucia.

There is a tracking shot later in the film, floating out from Augusto’s apartment across the Rio skyline and onto a hospital bed, that is the most impressive such shot I’ve seen since 2009’s The Secret In Their Eyes. It is a certain irony that an editor (Rezende worked on the greatest ever Brazilian film, City of God) would gladly include shots that appear to need no cutting at all.

Bingo: The King of the Mornings is Brazil’s official entry for next year’s Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film. I feel competition is too strong for the statuette with the likes of Swedish Palme d’Or winner The Square and Hungarian Golden Bear winner On Body and Soul in the mix, but a nomination in the category would not be entirely undeserved.
Rating: 3.5/5
Bingo: The King of the Mornings is in UK cinemas December 15th.

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