Raul – O Início, O Fim E O Meio20 September, 2012
Raul Seixas is one of the most iconic figures to come out of Brazilian music, a man who was able to connect with listeners the way that Joe Strummer did, who lived the lifestyle of Harry Nilsson or John Martyn (i.e. drink until your body can’t take anymore) and had a spiritual (yet personal) side that allowed him to connect with the Brazilian people in a way few other artists can. Raul – O Início, O Fim E O Meio (Raul – The Beginning, The End And The Middle, directed by Walter Carvalho) traces Seixas’ life and career from his birth in Salvador, Bahia in 1945 to his death in Sao Paulo from Pancreatitis aged 44.
The film works chronologically through Seixas’ career; from his early days listening to Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry, and then impersonating them in his first rock ‘n’ roll bands as a teenager; how he took this sound to Rio de Janeiro in the late 60s and had some success at the pop festivals with his outrageous merging of English and Brazilian iconography; before then meeting Paulo Coelho who became his first principal songwriting partner and with whom he would join Brazil’s “Alternative Society” and allude to the devil, the occult and Aleister Crowley in his music; and then later joining forces with Claúdio Roberto for more success with a less confrontational style of music; until later touring and recording with Marcelo Nova (of Camisa de Venus) before his death.
The film also does a fine job of cataloguing his many ex-partners and wives, as well as reaching out to his children, who all give a very emotional account of Seixas, whether crying about the father they never really got to see, beaming over stories of how they first met, or confused as to why he left them. This gives the film a real heart, which wouldn’t exist from hearing about the songs themselves. With only a few snatches of interviews from Seixas himself, and a few little nuggets from Paulo Coelho, Claúdio Roberto and some of his other old musician friends, the only way to truly understand Seixas was to listen to the music and the lyrics themselves.
Songs like “Mosca Na Sopa”, “Metamorfose Ambulante”, “Cowboy Fora da Lei” and “Ouro de Tolo” are broken down to their bare lyrics and reveal a unique point-of-view and naked simplicity to his songs. This was a man who lived through his music.
After watching Raul – O Início, O Fim E O Meio you have to wonder why he isn’t better known outside of Brazil. Part of this has to be the quality of some of his recordings – if he’d worked with some better producers a lot of his songs would hold up far better, as well as the fact that he took a lot from Western music, but the most important must be that his philosophy simply doesn’t come across to non-Portuguese speakers, the plays on words, the dreamy metaphors, the middle fingers to society, just don’t come through as clearly. It also doesn’t help that he never really belonged to a scene, not tropicalia, not jovem guarda, not MPB or iê iê iê, he created his own scene which is reflected in the fact that people still celebrate his death every year in Brazil in huge numbers.
What this documentary does is bring that magical life to our screens. It doesn’t hide away from the bad things Seixas did, or try and explain everything, but it does bring out the essence of what made him a great musician and idol to many people, and a talent well worth discovering.
Raul – O Início, O Fim E O Meio is being screened as part of the Brazilian Film Festival of London 2012. For more details of the festival click here.
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