Film Review – Bingo: The King of the Mornings

Bingo: The King of the Mornings is directed by the Oscar-nominated editor, Daniel Rezende, who worked on Meirelles’s City of God and Bingo is his directorial debut and Brazil’s official Academy Awards entry for best foreign film. It is ultimately a redemption drama, based on the true story of the former porn actor Arlindo Barreto, who in the 80s was a huge hit throughout Brazil playing the character of “Bozo”, a clown on Saturday morning children’s TV. Barreto played “Bozo” for four years; during this time he had to keep his true identity secret. The character originated on US TV and the creator of the character felt that “Bozo’s” identity should only be known of as the clown and not in any way reference the actor playing him.

Due to this Barreto went down the route of getting lost in drink and drugs, his lack of real fame for the real person he was becoming referred to in the film as him being a ‘shell’, Ultimately, he needed to discard his own hang ups and as is often the case, the drugs and the drink were killing all of his relationships. Barreto emerged spiritually enlightened, became a pastor and has played the character of “Mr Clown” for over 25 years.

Bozo is still so important in Brazil as a brand that the film cannot use the name, and so Vladimir Brichta plays “Bingo”, otherwise known as Augusto Mendes, a womanising divorcee and father-of-one, stuck in a professional rut, only working on telenovelas and soft-core porn films, yearning for a taste of real glory, the like of which he saw his mother have when he was a child. After a chance encounter he auditions for the role of ‘Bingo” in a genuinely funny scene that does not hint at the darkness yet to come. The narrative is drawn in broad strokes and does not offer anything new, “Bingo” and “Augusto” are an anti-hero, a fucked up egotist who yearns to be taken seriously, oh and he develops a cocaine habit and punches a TV.

The film descends from an interesting premise in to a drama-by-numbers redemption tale that just about manages to keep his head above water. The decision dramatise the life of Barreto is an interesting one and I can’t help but think that it would have perhaps worked better as a straight documentary.

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