The Search of the Lost. On Rémi Pinauds short film „Moleque“

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In his works, Remi Pinaud has given us a spectacular insight into the nightlife of Paris and also, together with Benoit Mery, has taken a look across the border to feel for the last remains of the Summer of Love in the south of Germany.

This essay is concerned with “Moleque”, in which this writer-director really kills and prooves himself an emotionally insightful storyteller. An artist to reckon with in the future.

The ‘mumblecore’ style of filming gets its name by it’s non-perfect technical characteristics: the audio may tend to be muffled. More importantly, it is just a low- (or non-) budget way of making a film, often by casting friends and shooting with basic, self-owned equipment. In this manner, movies were made in the last few years, that draw a certain feel of authenticity from the roughandready look, they have. For critical journalism, this storytelling also supports credibility, but can additionally have another effect: The fact, that all is filmed basically on the streets, adds to a certain “sketch-like” appeal. The thesis of a film like that can be stronger and more clear, than in technically more advanced and ornamented movies. In their reductionism, those rugged productions can outrun a major blockbuster, when there’s a story behind it.

“Moleque” is a short movie. For just around fifteen minutes we follow along on the search of a homeless person (Jose Trassi), who is looking for his companion, which he calls “Moleque”. It is what you call a street person in Sao Paolo and what they call each other. Moleque, that is the guy looking as well as the other guy and all the guys in the streets.

Just awoken from an uneasy dream, the Moleque finds himself in a torn down apartment. Coughing, he sets out to find his friend. “Moleque!” is the constant and increasingly desperate call for the invisible kid brother, that the Moleque is missing from his side. Now the search begins on the sun-scorched streets of Sao Paolo. “Moleque!” will become the mechanically repeated mantra of this journey. Only one man we see travelling through the guts of the south american moloch.  He will ask a number of people, – the security guards, the pedestrians, the garbage-drivers. But the streets of Saint Pauls’ City have silently devoured his friend. It’s either that or this poor devil we see thirstily drinking the last drops from a plastic bottle, is imagining him all along.

 Where can he be? Who can he be? We imagine a rushed little boy somewhere else in this megacity, franticly searching dirty streets. Driven by the sole wish to reunite with the other. At this point in the film, an elegant metaphor becomes apparent.  

 Like those two, a whole sub-society is lost and forlorn. With whom are they trying to reunite? Those thousands and thousands, that are living and dying at the bottom of the city of Saint Paul: The connection is lost from one to another. In a social network, that demands certain social standards from the people connected, single human beings get lost and fall down. 

The Moleque won’t get help from the people he is asking about his brother: “Did not see him”. How would we have? The pedestrians are pushing on. Stories of a lost one take place here every day. And people have grown tired to look at the suffering. The people, that the Moleque encounters, are sitting in their cars, boots or are walking by. They are in most parts not extras or actors, but are just the real citizens of Sao Paolo. They look at the actor Jose Trassi like at any ‘real’ dirt-eater on the streets, who is willing to clean their windshields even with his own clothes. They hardly take any notice of the nameless wanderer. When he’s not seen as a threat, he’s also not a citizen. But merely a regretfully dirty part of the streets of Sao Paolo. Like the dustbins. 

The Moleque continues his search. For his friend, his little brother, but also for some coins, for scraps of food. He finds some pizza in a garbage bag and hungrily eats it. He drinks some leftover lemonade. From time to time he is seized by coughing fits. And time and time again he is calling out for “Moleque!” Actor José Trassi gives an impressive performance. 

After nightfall, the Moleque lays down on a traffic island. Hard to believe, but there’s some peace in the way, he lays his head now. Even if it’s only minutes till he has to rise again, driven though painfully exhausted.

In this short period, we don’t even know, if he will get up again. And even if he will, we feel that the time nears when he cannot carry on anymore. And his search, whatever it means, will be finally over.

This moment of calm: Is it all a dream? Is the little boy, he is looking for, real? Or a feverish idea, an illusion. Spiritual people are welcome to hope that it’s the Divino Niño, the child Christ of the southern Americas, that will lead the poor soul straight into the realms of heaven. 

Death seems to be waiting for him. On the hard ground of Sao Paolo, Moleque will stay lost, we are afraid.

But like an animal, that carries along the scent of death, he drags on. Surrounded by people and yet alone, like in a hostile desert. Clinging to a tiny shard of existence. How many days will he have left for his search?

It’s over, the credits are running. We hit space. Those 15 minutes of film have delivered a good deal of pause. 

The ‘look like homeless’ Trassi makes obvious, that you only have to wear dirty clothes to be perceived as potentially dangerous. It seems difficult for anybody to get back on his feet, when you can’t approach a fellow citizen for a conversation.

Pinauds Moleque is brief and insistent. There is no overture. There is no closure. In our present day, just another Moleque is running out of time.

I don’t have a gun”, he says. Nobody seems eager to bet on that. Can we help a fellow human being, when there’s an armoured car’s glass panel always between us? When we cannot trust one another and are afraid to tend to the people that need help.

The director tells us, that in making the film, the team was accompanied by an armed guard, who lowered his hand to the butt of his revolver, once the filming started. It seems like for the fiction to be made, the reality it was talking about had to be kept at a distance.

Rémi Pinaud and José Trassi are discovering a society way past the 2010s, that has lost not it’s will, but it’s ability for compassion. Pinaud is not Brazilian. But “Moleque” is a tale, that, in it’s basic proposition, could easily be moved to Paris or Berlin.

Who doesn’t know the disinterest towards poverty and distress, that citizens of major cities adjust themselves to, quickly after arriving?

This is one and maybe the only message of this short and compelling work: It is like that, we all know it. The authors of this film do not pretend to know an answer to longstanding social questions. But they are not going to be silent about it either.