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Rethinking Pixote: The Subversive Power of the "Time-Image"
Julian Daniel Gutierrez-Albilla
Resumo Expandido
This paper rethinks the theoretical, political and ethical implications of representing Brazilian marginal children in Hector Babenco’s Pixote (1981). My paper explores how Babenco focuses on the problem of marginal children in Brazil as a way of criticizing and denouncing wider social and political forces in Brazil and thereby revealing the social and political anxieties of the Brazilian society of the early 1980s. This historical period is characterized by its deep social and ideological contradictions as a result of Brazil’s ruling military dictatorship, which came to power in Brazil in 1964 by means of a military coup and became much more rigid and violent after 1968. A succession of generals remained in power until 1985, and the first direct presidential elections were held in 1989 (Rolnik, 2008: 159). Such a dictatorial regime was under threat by its own precarious reliance on what Félix Guattari defined as ‘Integrated World Capitalism’ (Guattari and Rolnik, 2008, 477). The latter was for Guattari an alternative to the term globalization. In this paper, I also explore how the representation of marginal children in the film may challenge or reinforce common stereotypes about social poverty in Brazi. If the social marginalization of street children represented in Babenco’s film is mainly provoked by socio-economic factors, I also concentrate on sexual marginalization by paying attention to one of the film characters, the effeminate Lilica. Although Pixote stands at a tensional point between being a commercial film and a self-conscious cultural practice that intervenes politically in the present, I focus on some self-reflexive sequences in which the cinematic image seems to have suspended the logic of cause and effect which links actions in time. I thus point to moments within the film in which the flow of movement seems to be interrupted, thereby foregrounding the film’s self-conscious theoretical dimension (Ishaghpour, 2005: vii). Such a break of movement, which produces the emergence of the time-image (to use Deleuze’s concept) allows for the possibility of aesthetic, ethical and political transcendence, as the time-image opens up on to another series of linkages by affecting and transforming our perceptual and cognitive experience (Walsh, 2004: 200). From this perspective, if the time-image becomes detached from the ideological structure underpinning the narrative of the film, I explore how the representation of this effeminate character may articulate a self-affirmative and emancipatory identity and subjectivity at a micro-political level as a way of challenging the hegemonic ideology under which the film is contextualized at a macro-political level. As Suely Rolnik argues (2008), totalitarian regimes, and their association with machismo and homophobia, as it was the case in early 1980s Brazil, do not just impinge upon concrete reality but also upon intangible reality. For Rolnik, this can have lasting effects, and one may need to find strategies of protection by anesthetizing the marks of the trauma in the affective circuit. Nonetheless, if one has to take into consideration the way in which the macro-political and the micro-political affect each other in order to provide a more mobile cartography, we might ask whether the representation of this character in the film points towards the intensification of individual and collective creativity and resistance even in in the face of a society that harbors the risk of unleashing microfascisms.

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