The Man Who Copied

Director: Jorge Furtado

Just one year after Fernando Meirelles’s brilliant City of God, another Brazilian film was released depicting the similar struggle of the haves and the have-nots and the increasing gap between the two. While crime still plays a part of Jorge Furtado’s The Man Who Copied which won six Cinema Brazil Grand Prizes (including Best Picture and Director), it’s a far less gritty and neorealistic tale of bending the law than the prior epic. Appropriately described by The New York Times as a film that begins as “social realism” but turns “into noirish fantasy,” we are introduced to our lower-classed nineteen year old hero Andre (Lazaro Ramos), who, without much in the way of a formal education, acquires knowledge by reading snippets of sentences on diverse topics from the many items he Xeroxes as a photocopier operator in a local shop. With an inventive voiceover that quickly wears out its welcome despite an intriguing blend of highly stylized sequences establishing Andre’s daily routine, we discover that Andre possesses not only a love of drawing (especially cartoons) but is also, in an homage to Hitchcock’s Rear Window, voyeuristically in love with the girl in the building opposite himself whom he spies on with binoculars—the only extravagant item to his name. Despite a vague and unpromising title, The Man Who Copied is at once both delicious (yet slightly improbable) fun and also overly cynical in its moral that happiness comes only to those with money. Set in writer/director Furtado's hometown of Porto Alegre, Andre, like his beautiful virginal seductress coworker Marines (Luana Piovani) long to live a life of wealth and privilege—while she plans to marry a rich man, Andre schemes to use money as a way of introducing himself to his neighbor Sylvia (Leandra Leal) whom he follows one day to work only to realize that she works in a woman’s apparel store. When a color copier arrives at the store, he learns his new skill set with gusto and after hours of troubleshooting, makes a nearly fool-proof copy of a fifty dollar bill that he exchanges in a rather risky scheme in the local lottery in order to get enough money to purchase what he tells Sylvia is a birthday present for his mother and uses that initial purchase as his way into her heart, planning “chance” encounters with the girl until a fast friendship develops that blossoms into love. After discovering the lecherous father of Sylvia, Andre makes the decision to embark on a life of crime in order to marry the girl he loves and enlists the help of Marines and Cardoso (a hilarious Pedro Cardoso who along with Piovani steal the entire film) that consists first of counterfeit and then escalates into robbery. Although it has some dark and dangerous moments that distract from its hip, funny and coolly improbable scheming tone, The Man Who Copied, despite its cynical (although for the quartet of characters sadly true as the way they see it) message that money will get them out of their unfortunate circumstances, is yet another fine piece of Latin American filmmaking that will entertain fans of Nine Queens.