by Billie Walker
We're nearing the end of the International Film Festival Rotterdam, but Billie returns with a rather sour tale of cars vs humans
Some days at a film festival nothing inspires, some days one film shines above all the rest and then there are those that stand out for all the wrong reasons. Unfortunately for director Renato Pinheiro, Carro Rei (King Car) was the latter.
Advertised as a futuristic look at capitalism, it led me to believe it would be similar to Sorry to Bother You, a surreal, afro-futurist film that offers an incredibly biting critique of capitalism. That may well have been the intention for Carro Rei but intention can get lost in the overtly literal execution.
The film tells of a young boy who grows up in a taxi rank. He becomes greatly attached to old cars after finding he is able to speak to them. However when he and his uncle rejuvenate these old models, the manipulative cars seduce those around them and turn evil.
The films many strengths seemed to quickly turn into its weakness, usually this fault came from poor character development. The main character is the weakest character of all, appearing as nothing more than a handsome farmer. The feminist performance activist known for defacing statues of tyrannicals with her vagina, is quickly suckered into the car’s manipulative agenda without any intelligent judgement. She then turns into a mechanophile in an eyeroll inducing woman-car-sex scene. Watching a woman grind on top of an old car while they both moan in shared enjoyment, was not the turn I thought the male gaze was going to take!
I think the worst character development of all was given to the only neurodiverse actor in the film. Turning from the boy’s helpful mechanically skilled uncle, he becomes a pathetic caricature of the evil genius. Even sporting an electric xylophone which distorts his voice to enhance his now mechanical nature.
It is not that this film was without potential as it contains some beautiful imagery. A dance scene in which the mechanists mirror the noise and movements of the vehicles depicts the consummation of the worker by the productivity line. While the film’s end is probably one of its most poetic as nature defeats the machine.
I could see the message it was hoping to deliver: that capitalist brands feign progressive societal ideals to further their profits. A message that was clear throughout but by its end you began to feel as if you were being clubbed with this point. All of which culminated in a piece that although well intended in its critique became a rather problematic and overly absurdist mess.
Billie Walker is a London-based writer who enjoys Campari-based drinks as bitter as she is. There will always be a horror film on her laptop and feta in the fridge. She devours books as frequently as salty cheeses. See more of her work here