As one of the earliest Brazilian movies to address homosexuality, O Menino e o Vento (The Boy and the Wind) played it relatively safe, tackling its subject obliquely through the prism of magical realism. Never released internationally and hard to find in Brazil, this 1967 gem begs to be (re)discovered.
José Roberto Nery (Ênio Gonçalves), a young engineer from Rio de Janeiro, returns to a small town where he had previously vacationed to face trial on charges of killing Zeca da Curva (Luiz Fernando Ianelli), a teenage boy with whom he developed a strong friendship.
Da Curva disappeared after Nery left town, and the locals accuse him of having a sexual relationship with the boy and killing him out of jealousy. The main prosecution witnesses have grudges to bear against him, including a boarding house owner whose advances he had rejected, and even his attorney doubts his innocence; but Nery refuses to defend himself in court as witness after witness describe his “strange” relationship with the boy, which involved long, mysterious walks through the once-windy hills surrounding the town.
The wind stopped blowing after da Curva’s disappearance, and when Nery takes to the stand to tell his side of the story, he denies any sexual impropriety and spins a fantastic tale. He claims that it was their mutual fascination with the wind that brought him and da Curva together, and that he slowly realized that his new friend had the power to predict or summon stormy weather. When the howling winds arrived the boy was at one with nature in a trance-like state, sometimes undressing down to his underpants. On their last outing together the boy was so entranced that he got completely undressed, and unable to resist the call of the wild, he hugged Nery goodbye and ran with the wind until he disappeared over the hills.
I initially took the winds to be metaphorical, symbolizing Nery’s turbulent emotions towards the boy; despite his denials, there are enough languorous looks and touches of homoeroticism in their scenes together to make it clear that there were romantic feelings, at least on his end. But the winds suddenly return at the film’s conclusion, interceding in the trial and indicating that we’re supposed to take the story’s fantastic elements at face value.
I can say without completely spoiling it that the film ends with Nery clutching in his hands the shirt da Curva was wearing before disappearing with the wind, and I take the look of growing realization on his face to mean that he’s finally figured out his feelings for the youth. So whether or not you accept the idea that da Curva was some force of nature, ultimately this is still a film about about a man coming to grips with his sexuality.
O Menino e o Vento was directed by Carlos Hugo Christensen, who made numerous films in his native Argentina before coming to Brazil in the mid-fifties. He is scarcely remembered and is said to have had an uneven career, but the little I’ve seen of his work leaves me wanting more. O Menino e o Vento pushes the envelope gently, in a lyrical manner, with solid performances and production values; the storm scenes are particularly impressive and affecting, sometimes bringing to mind the sweeping skies Gregg Toland captured in the likes of The Grapes of Wrath.
O Menino e o Vento was released on VHS but not on DVD and has been kept alive by occasional TV screenings. I am reluctantly sharing this YouTube upload because it’s currently the only way to experience the film, but I hope a legal, restored, subtitled reissue that does it justice will someday be available.