|Hour of the Star|
|Directed by||Suzana Amaral|
|Written by||Suzana Amaral|
|Produced by||Assunção Hernandes|
|Edited by||Idê Lacreta|
Hour of the Star (Portuguese: A Hora da Estrela) is a Brazilian film directed by Suzana Amaral and released in 1985. The film is an adaptation of a book by Clarice Lispector with the same name. In 1986, the actress Marcélia Cartaxo won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 36th Berlin International Film Festival, for her role as Macabea. It was selected as the Brazilian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 59th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.
"Macabea is an example of the mental underdevelopment of the poor people of the world", the director, Amaral, has written. "Facing the solitude of the big city, she possesses the emptiness of someone who does not have the means to be cultured." But surely her case is even more extreme than that. Macabea doesn't even possess the culture of poverty; she is simply an emptiness.
Macabea is an impoverished 19 year old orphan girl who recently moved to Rio de Janeiro after her aunt, who raised her, passed away. She works as a typist and shares a room with three other women. Though she works for less than minimum wage, she seems unaware of her impoverishment. She is described as unattractive by coworkers and makes many mistakes at work since she slowly types one key at a time. She seems unaware of the right way to behave in society. Instead of visiting the bathroom at night, she urinates into a bowl she hides under her bed. Instead of using a tissue, she wipes her nose on her sleeve. Her typed pages often have holes and grease on them but she is unaware of this until her boss points it out. However, she is extremely polite and quick to apologize when she makes a mistake. Macabea grew up in extreme poverty without education, and was never taught anything about social graces.
Macabea's personality is a blank slate. She describes herself as a typist and a virgin who likes Coca-Cola. "I'm not much of a person," she says. She spends her time listening to the radio and copying other women. Her lack of experience allows her to derive pleasure from little things in life. On Sundays, she gets great pleasure from riding the subway. When she hears a song on the radio, its beauty moves her to tears. She pastes magazine photos on the walls and listens to others for cues on how to behave. It's unclear what Macabea really wants other than to be like everyone else. She obtains what little knowledge she has from the radio.
Eventually she meets Olimpico, an insecure steelworker from Paraiba with a massive chip on his shoulder who dreams of being rich one day. He is also uncultured and uneducated but behaves as though he knows everything. Olimpico's dream is to be a congressman because they have cars, indoor plumbing, and money to give away. He proudly shows Macabea his gold tooth and says that one day he will have a mouth of gold teeth which will show the world his wealth.
They begin dating which mainly consists of their sitting on a park bench while Olimpico brags about his bright future. He often gets annoyed with Macabea because her naivete prevents her from being impressed with the things he tells her. He is extremely defensive about his lack of education and quick to anger when Macabea questions him telling her that whorehouses are full of girls who asked too much. He seems to be considering her as a wife because of her innocence. Macabea spends most of her time with Olimpico repeating things she's heard on the radio.
Olimpico is often rude to Macabea but she seems not to realize it. When they are caught in a rainstorm, he uses his handkerchief to dry off while she's left shivering. Their first date Olimpico offers to buy her a cup of coffee but tells her that if she wants milk in it, she must pay for it. When she tries to sing a song she likes, he knocks her onto the ground. Macabea gives him a coin and begs him to call her at work so she can get a call just once. He never does.
Macabea's coworker Gloria often gives her advice about men. Gloria dates a different man every week and dresses in sexy clothes. Macabea views her as a big sister or role model. Gloria is so desperate to get married she goes to a macumbeira. The manipulative woman advises her to steal a friend's man as penance for her unclean soul and then she'll meet her dream man. Gloria winds up having an affair with Olimpico. He eventually leaves Macabea telling her she's a hair in his soup that's disgusting.
Gloria winds up meeting the man of her dreams and leaving Olimpico. He waits outside Macabea's house with a giant stuffed animal meant for Gloria. When Macabea goes to the fortune teller, Madame Carlota accurately predicts Macabea's past. Eventually, she tells her she will marry a rich foreigner in a Mercedes who will give her much money. Excited and looking forward to the future for the first time, Macabea buys a new dress and runs out into the street without looking. She is hit by a foreigner in a Mercedes. As she lies bleeding on the street, she imagines the driver running toward her with open arms.
The film is reviewed in Pauline Kael's ninth collection of movie reviews, Hooked, where she praises it, and particularly the performance of Marcelia Cartaxo. The film gets to you, " and the image of Marcelia Cartaxo's Macabea is what does it - the terrible aloneness of this mass woman, this nothing of a woman whom you wouldn't notice on the street. Umberto D stood for all the proud, angry old people who couldn't live on their pensions, but he was himself too - his own ornery old man. Macabea is most herself in her moments of contentment: she smiles serenely as she celebrates her Sunday by taking a ride in the subway. It's the director's triumph that this girl gets away from her. Numbed as she is, she's as alive as Amaral or you or I, and more mysteriously so."