Far from a niche release, City of God bucks the Imprint label’s trend of uncovering hidden gems. Indeed, it’s one of the best-reviewed films of all time. And although this release doesn’t really fill a hole in the existing market, it’s still a quality release for Region B Blu-ray customers.
I’d long meant to watch City of God but put it off after foolishly judging a book by its cover or, in this case, a film by its poster. To be fair, movie posters can be essential to evoke a movie’s mood. But having now seen City of God, it’s hard to imagine capturing in a still image the energy of one of Brazil’s most lauded cinematic exports.
Directed by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, City of God follows Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues), a boy coming of age in the titular locale — one of Rio de Janeiro’s most notorious slums. It’s a sprawling tale spanning from the 1960s to the 1980s as well as the lives of many residents. Wisely, it never patronises its characters or shifts into maudlin, saccharine storytelling. Instead, it simply tells their story with honesty that lets viewers draw their own conclusions and parallels about the depiction. Meirelles and Lund use technical skills, camera work and visual cues to substantially elevate their story and presentation (e.g., the sepia tones of the 1960s), depict their characters’ feelings and drive home the cycle of violence and often inescapable circumstances of the slums.
Imprint’s release adds no new bonus features, an atypical oddity for the label. Still, its subtitles are well done — hard-coded in yellow with a black background and in a modern, aesthetically pleasing font. (As someone who grew up with typewriter-esque yellow subtitles, this was especially nice.) There’s a featurette conversation with Meirelles and a documentary on its subject matter. The 1080p transfer maintains clarity without compromising the vivid visuals used to tell the story (crucial when shifting decades) and maintains the film’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Although Imprint isn’t exactly blowing dust off a lost masterpiece, City of God is proof positive that sometimes the classics are well-known for a reason.