Limite and the Academic Studies

By Luciana Corrêa de Araújo

Limite doesn’t seem to fit in the middle term, at the medium. That is what one can say about its cinematographic proposal as well as its presence in the academic studies. Meanwhile, in the first fifty years after its launching in 1931, it had a few exhibitions and it raised a sporadic published texts in scientific journals, from the restored copies of the projections which started in 1978, the VHS launching 10 years later and most of all with the availability of the film in the internet in this century, Limite became one of the most studied Brazilian movies and it certainly is the silent period production with the greatest critic wealth.

Thereafter, it is showed a few notes about the academic works dedicated to Limite in the last twenty years, approximately. There is no intention to do an exhausting raising, but to comment a few approaches, assuming from now on the risk of leaving many gaps and make generalizations that might not represent the particularities of the works.

A frequent approach in the studies about Limits is the filmic analysis directed to the aesthetic and linguistic questions. Even though this and other works mobilize many authors and concepts, it hardly ceases to be an unavoidable tribute of Saulo Pereira de Mello contribution’s, figurehead in the preservation, restoration, dissemination and critical analysis of Limits. Aspects approached by Saulo are developed in greater detail in subsequent works, for example of narrative structures (Yamagi, 2007), of Framework (Matínez Ramírez, 2017), the principle of rhythms from the ideas of Octavio de Faria (Saraiva, 2000). Although being in Saulo’s studies, the relation of Limits with avant-garde is gaining greater extent and diversity, which is also observed as the approximation proposed between the Mario Peixoto’s movie and other productions. Meantime, Marilia de Orange Uchôa Fonseca (2019), investigates the relation between Limits and Surrealism, Odil Miranda Ribeiro (2015) develops a comparative analysis between the movie and European vanguards, exploring above all the similarities in the visual composition, comparing frames of Limits with artworks of Europeans filmmakers such as Jean Epstein, Abel Gance and Hans Ritcher, and others.

The relation with avant-garde also occupies a prominent place in several works about Limite and Peixoto made by Michael Korffman, also responsible for a collection (2006a) and a bilingual website dedicated to the filmmaker. In an article of 2006, he criticizes the discussions about avant-garde cinematographic of the years 1920, which tends to neglect titles that do not take part in the American, Russian, and European cinematography (2006b). This overview has been modified in the last few years, with approaches that expand, geographically as well as conceptually the comprehension of vanguards in other countries. To examine avant-garde in the Latin-American silent movie, Paul A. Schroeder Rodríguez (2015; 2016), aims the analysis in four preserved titles, which, according to him, tries with non-Aristotelian narratives and with a non-realistic photography: Limite, São Paulo, a symphonia da metrópole (Rodolfo Rex Lustig and Adalberto Kemeny, 1929), Ganga bruta (Humberto Mauro, 1933) e Que viva México! (Sergei Eisenstein, 1931). Another comparative study is developed by André Keiji Kunigami (2018;2020), which establishes a dialog of post-colonial track between Limite and a Japanese production A page of madness (Kurutta Ichipēji, Kinugasa Teinosuke, 1926), also it is received as an answer to the local historical Europeans vanguards.

It would be interesting to also consider the conception of avant-garde present between the members of Chaplin-Club and contributors of the magazine O Fan, which includes not only Limite, presenting as “a production of ‘avant-garde’, unique”, which launching was promoted by movie club in May 1931, also, before that, the private projection of Bairro Humano (Adhemar Gonzaga, 1929) at Paulo Benedetti’s study, the productor, in May 1929, considered as the “first section ‘d’avant-garde’ in Brazil”, as Fabrício Felice Alves dos Santos (2012: 46, 84) says in his dissertation about the Chaplin-Club. The exhibitions and the reception of Limits, back in the launching times as now in the next decade deserve special attention in the works of Regina Ferreira da Silva (1993) and Filippi Fernandes (2013).

By departing of a more conventional narrative proposal, Limits stimulates several works which based a filmic analysis in philosophical concepts such as Kant (Marcondes, 2008), Merleau-Ponty (Roizman, 2003) and Gilles Deleuze (Augusto, 1998; Bonora, 2002). Moreover, for its aesthetical and formal proposals, Limite has been incorporated to the experimental cinema history in Brazil. In an article published originally in 1993, the filmmaker Júlio Bressane proposed a genealogy (“some threads of our movie traditions”) of the experimental national cinema which at that silent time, included Limite among with the first footage of Segreto brothers, and the Major Thomas Reis (1995: 156). Also, Rubens Machado Júnior is highlighting “the complexity and importance [of Limite] to the discussion of experimental cinema in Brazil” (2009: 16).

Following this experimental track, works that highlight the relation between Limite with productions of other times such as O bandido da luz vermelha (Rogério Sganzerla, 1968) and the project Cosmococa, of Helio Oiticica and Neville d’Almeida (Silva, 2009); the movie A agonia (1978), the “cinematographic critic” made by Bressane after watching to Limite (Souza, 2019); the Argentinian production in video Perón, Sinfonia del Sentimiento (1998), of Leonardo Favio (La Ferla, 2008). The approach as much as the filmic support as the video graphical is also present in Francisco Elinaldo Teixeira’s (2003) book, dedicated to the analysis of Limite, Terra em transe (Glauber Rocha, 1967) and the “videogaláxias” of Júlio Bressane, Galáxia Albina (1992) and Galáxia Dark (1993).

Another track of studies is about the interdisciplinary approaches, including cinema and literature. Bruce Edmund Williams (1987) made a comparative analysis between Limite and Poems, first book of Murilo Mendes, published in 1930 shortly before the film launching; and Rossana Foglia (2000), having as one of the strings the discussion of temporality, approaches the movie of Mário Peixoto and the tale “La otra muerte” of Jorge Luis Borges. In this thread, a path that seems productive is the one that establishes readings between Limits and Mário Peixoto’s other creations. Contança Herts Rodrigues, in the Ph.D. investigates the literary thinking presents in the Chaplin-Club and O Fan’s (2006) conception, in the Master’s thesis focus Limite in comparison with the poetical artwork of Peixoto, in the books Mundéu and Poemas de permeio com o mar (2001). This second book is also object of study, in comparison with the movie, by Ciro Inácio Marcondes (2008), which in other work invests in the relation between cinema and theater, analyzing Limits and the performance in Vestido de Noiva by Antunes Filho (2001). The approximation between Limite and the novel O inútil de cada um is approached by Luiz Henrique da Costa (2001), Aparecida do Carmo Frigeri Berchior (2005) and André Soares Vieira (2009). Even being a non-literary work, a key artwork in the path of Mário Peixoto as a creator artist is also an object of study. Palmireno Moreira Neto (2017) focus Peixotos’s creations in Sítio do Morcego, where during decades he invested not only his artistic talent but also his fortune, which he even wrote a script.

Mário Peixoto’s creation as a scriptwriter is also handled in a study of Jorge Luiz Cruz (2000), aimed to the script of Limits, and Pablo Gonçalo Pires de Campos Martins’ (2020), which is focused on the scripts of A alma segundo Salustre and Outono: o jardim petrificado, although it points to the existence of seventeen non-carried cinematographic projects (in different stages of elaboration), available in Mário Peixoto’s archive. By observing the way that the black and female characters are represented, Martins’ analysis highlights some aspects of Mário Peixoto’s artwork not yet approached but is gaining more attention in the last few years, such as the social dimension and the gender issues, including body treatment and eroticism. Paul A. Schroeder Rodríguez (2016: 62) supports that Limite is not dismissed of social worries, and it goes further when addresses it, except Que viva México!, the “only Latin-American silent movie which radically criticizes what Eisenstein called the patriarchal exploitation, in this case through an oblique representation of three patriarchal liberalism principles: marriage, capitalism and heteronormativity”.

In 2001, Bruce Williams argued that the heterosexual rivalry of Limite intrigues’ is subverted by the attention gave to the male body, which is focused of a much more eroticized look than the female bodies (2001:37). Williams analyze specifically the cemetery sequence, which is also a detach in the work of Matheus Nagime Barros da Silva (2016), dedicated to investigate the origins of a queer cinema in Brazil and in which approaches, beyond Limite, the movies Brasa dormida (Humberto Mauro, 1929) and Poeira de estrelas (Moacyr Fenelon, 1948). Meanwhile, Nagime invests in the concept of “queer authorship”, Denilson Lopes is carrying out broad research supported in unprecedented materials (diaries, letters, interviews), which combine analysis of the artwork and Mário Peixoto’s biography in the perspective of a queer historiography (2021; 2020a; 2020b; 2019). Among other aspects, his works issues the “intellectual isolation rumors” of Mário Peixoto and the artistic isolation of Limite (2021:47).

There are a few studies that evade the dominant trends of isolating Limits in relation to the Brazilian silent movies set, which it takes part. One of them is Maite Conde’s (2018), which inserts the movie of Mário Peixoto in the discussion about modernity and the nation construction in the first decades of XX century in Brazil, embracing cinematographic cultural analysis in general and of a few movies, such as Limite, Tesouro perdido (Humberto Mauro, 1927), documentaries of Major Thomas Reis e São Paulo, a symphonia da metrópole.

Another key to comprehend Limite in relation to the Brazilian cinematographic kind of its time is through the characteristics of its realization and the techniques and technologies involved, which directly implicate in the aesthetic expression. Alexandre Ramos Vasques (2012), in his research about preservation and analogic restauration of Limite details elements of the movie realization, since Cinédia’s support and the cameras’ loan (of Cinédia’s, of Phebo Filme do Brazil and Carmen Santos’), to the reveal in Paulo Benedetti’s lab and the extensive propagation in the magazine Cinearte. The study of photography, of the camera works and framing of Edgar Brasil in Limite, which is not dissociated of his contributions in other titles, also reinforces the insertion of the movie of Mário Peixoto in the Brazilian silent cinema context, as much as it clarifies the research of Hermani Heffner and Lécio Augusto Ramos (1998) about Edgar Brazil’s path, which unfortunately still unpublished until the present moment, although it is available for consulting at Research and Documentation Center of Cinemateca do MAM.

Lastly, facing a numerous quantity of works about Limite, almost constructing a subarea of its own in the Brazilian cinema studies, it is important to highlight that the huge and sustained interest for the movie as an object of academic study is integrated to the expansion of post-graduation courses in the country in the last decade, in the area of Communication and Humanities in general, stimulating research with diverse focus. May that continue for the years to come.


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