BYE BYE BRAZIL -- At the Embassy Circle and K-B Studio.
"Fishbones!" cries a member of the "Caravana Rolidei" as the tawdry troupe -- one magician, one stripper and one muscleman -- makes its long way by rattletrap truck along the dusty roads of Brazil.
"Fishbones" are television antennae, the sign, to the characters in "Bye Bye Brazil," that they will not be welcome in still another town where they used to mesmerize the impoverished inhabitants. If there are fishbones, signaling even one public television set for an entire village, the formerly enthusiastic and gullible populace will be found locked in an impenetrable trance, no longer reachable by live attempts to stir their amazement or lust.
This funny-sad little commentary on changing times is touchingly done in Carlos Diegues' film, with its bits of bigtime American canned culture amusingly popping up on the Portuguese soundtrack. "Now, like all the civilized countries in the world, it also snows in Brazil!" declares the magician as he miraculously makes shredded coconut fall on one of his few remaining audiences, while Bing Crosby warbles "White Christmas" from the record player.
But "Bye Bye Brazil" is also an oddly effective story about the nature of glamor. Whether it is the blue plastic radio an elderly Indian clasps to her ear or the tired bumps and grinds of "Salome, Queen of the Rumba, who was once a mistress of a president of the United States," it is still show business, and it injects energy and dash into flat lives.
This is dramatized through two young rural innocents, an accordian-player and his pregnant child-wife, played by Fabio Junior and Zaira Zambelli, who leave their rocky homeland to join the failing troupe. He, particularly, is stirred to life by the simple machinations of the magician and the sordid charms of the stripper, whose cynicism Jose Wilker and Betty Faria manage to endow with a surprising touch of heroism.
If the four of them haven't a dependable virtue among them, they have the tenacity to survive, and to do so with the dash to bring an occasional pleasure to others born of the same poverty.