Great expectations make a heavy burden. After Diamantino’s smashing 2018 premiere at Cannes, I eagerly looked forward to it for over a year. It is now available to rent/purchase on iTunes and Amazon, but the typical football film and soccer movie fan may end up wanting to reverse the last 90 minutes of their lives.
Maybe Cannes attendees talked up Diamantino because they were numb from watching so many movies, and this “comedy” was a jolt of electric shock therapy that woke them up. Maybe they reveled in watching Carloto Cotta, an attractive guy who looks so much like Cristiano Ronaldo that you forget he’s not CR7. All I know is that after viewing, I needed down time to wash away the disquiet and dread that had infiltrated my brain.
A preposterous satire?
In the film, Diamantino (nicknamed Tino) is a top world player. He is not vain and narcissistic like Ronaldo but is instead the anti-Ronaldo, a virginal innocent who only knows football. He uses a simple 10% of his brain, in the sense that the other 90% is not functional. He is a Michelangelo on the football field, not because he is a genius, but because all he sees are giant fluffy puppies.
The childlike Tino is bullied and controlled by his 2 evil murderous sisters, who sell off his body to a government ministry. The ministry wants to transfer the DNA of Tino’s greatness to 11 players who will Make Portugal Great Again, and lead the country to withdraw from the European Union. At the same time, lesbian agent Aisha (Cleo Tavares) of the Portuguese secret service infiltrates Tino’s family by posing as a teenage boy refugee from Mozambique. Tino adopts Rahim/Aisha in order to do his part for humanity. These are the over-the-top parts of the story that deem it a satire.
The problem is, Carloto Cotta is very good at playing a sympathetic, sad, mentally deficient adult. The actor cries much of the time, and he excels at it. It’s like watching a child being constantly abused and deceived by everyone. First-time Writer-Directors Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt stick to their nonsensical narrative throughout and carry it to a conclusion where I think, everyone dies. I’m not actually sure.
The film is often gratuitous, as if the directors said, hey we haven’t tried that yet, or, I like doing this, and they throw in a scene. For me watching at home, my patience was tried too often and I lost interest. Distributor Kino Lorber declared Diamantino to be an “un-synopsizable theme-park ride of a film”, but I instead found it to be randomly disturbing.
About the directors
I haven’t looked at the early works of Abrantes and Schmidt, who were 35 when Diamantino was released. They did many short films before getting this project funded, and their old interviews (the best is by Nick Pinkerton in 2016) seem to show they are what I call kitchen sink guys. That’s an old software engineering term where you throw everything but the kitchen sink into your product.
The directors take bits from their lives, current social problems, and from auteurs and filmmakers they admire, mash it together and make something new that is sometimes the ironic opposite of the original intentions. I suppose that is one way to look at Diamantino. But somehow I don’t think they meant to go deeper than that kitchen sink.
The soccer play in this film is through virtual reality.
FYI parents: there is some nude cavorting in the ocean at the end.
In Portuguese with English sub-titles
5 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 5