Our coverage of the 2017 Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival continues with Body Electric, a character-driven film that’s light on plot and heavy on experience.
Let’s bitch it out…
Watching first time director Marcelo Caetano’s Body Electric (Corpo Elétrico), it’s clear that he’s interested more by the energy of his characters than a need to tell a traditional story with a beginning, middle and end. This fittingly reflects the worldview of protagonist Elias (Kelner Macêdo), an early twenty-something gay man working as an assistant designer in a garment factory in São Paulo, Brazil. Elias is fun, charming and occasionally even a little irresponsible (he sometimes misses work because he’s been out drinking). It’s evident that Elias doesn’t have much of a life plan and that’s OK; just as it is clear early on that any expectations that the audience has that Elias will grow and mature over the course of the film should be cast aside. This simply isn’t that kind of film.
Body Electric is not a plot driven film. If anything, it is like a fleeting glimpse into a social community of friends. There’s virtually no character arc and Elias is more or less in the same place when the film ends as when it began. In place of a traditional plot, Caetano opts to simply spend time with Elias and his circle of friends. The result is a film that takes place primarily at social events such as parties, and beach houses, and intimate conversations after sex. Body Electric marinates in the every day experiences of life – the mundane, the innocuous, the fleeting connections and the laughter – and in that capacity, the film works. Caetano sets up his camera for static long takes, simply allowing his actors to move in and out of the frame as they please. This laid-back approach helps to create an observational vibe wherein the camera (and therefore the audience) adopts a role as a member of the group: we eavesdrops on conversations, watch friends dance and hook up. We’re a fly on the wall.
The casual vibe means that the cast and their relationships are front and center. As Elias, Macêdo is winsome: a friendly slacker who enjoys casual sex and spending time with friends. His circle of friends includes his well-to-do ex Arthur (Ronaldo Serruya) and Wellington (Lucas Andrade), Elias’ excitable young work friend and occasional lover. At times Caetano seems more enamoured with Wellington and his drag queen family, fronted by Marcia (Marcia Pantera) and her weave for days, especially in the middle section of the film when the bitchiness and fashion threaten to overtake Elias as the central focus.
Still, it’s his film and when the clock runs out on the year and it’s time for another party, it’s nice to spend time with these characters, share their exuberance for life and laugh at their antics. They may be the same as when we met them, but we’re better off for spending time with them.
Body Electric does not currently have a release date.