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Brazilian director Bruno Barreto explains to SANDRA BORDIGONI how his own life - and the internet - influenced his latest film, Bossa Nova, which stars his wife, US actress Amy Irving.


In portraying the comical and romantic relationship between the beautiful American teacher and the Brazilian lawyer, how much did you draw directly from your own experience, being married to an American actress?
A lot. Most of the linguistic gags in Bossa Nova come from my own experience with my wife (actress Amy Irving), since she is American and I am Brazilian. One of the main differences in our cultures, for instance, is the use of the word LOVE, as you can see in the movie. In America this word has a less intense connotation than in a Latin Country. People say 'I love you' at the end of a phone call, meaning 'good bye'. But for a Latin man to say 'I love you' it's an epic thing. The word LOVE has an immense power and is very very meaningful. It's a word that I said maybe ten times in my whole life, only when I really meant it from the deep of my heart.

Rio de Janeiro seems to be for you the same that Manhattan is for Woody Allen ...
In a way it is really so. Bossa Nova is a sort of a love letter from me to Rio because after 10 years of being away from it and living in America, I miss it terribly. I miss its music, its cuisine and so many other things. The idea for Bossa Nova was sparked by two Brazilian songs: one called Useless Landscape and another called Wave. They both describe the difficulty of living in Rio alone, because it's almost impossible to endure it's immense beauty if you don't have a lover to share it with.

The movie is dedicated to Antonio Carlos Jobim, author of so many magnificent songs, and to Françoise Truffaut, but there's also a lot of touches of the cinema of Howard Hawks and Ernst Lubitsch in it...
This film is a bit of a paradox because of all my films it is definitely the most American one, but it's all shot in Rio and mostly spoken in Portuguese. That's because I wanted to make a comedy set in my country but in the style of the old American comedies of the 40s and 50s. I love those kind of films, the screwball comedies made after the War, with Cary Grant, Gregory Peck and Jimmy Stewart. It was a special kind of cinema where the love story was contrasted and supported by a lot of irony and sense of humour. Being a movie called Bossa Nova I felt I had to dedicate it to Jobim, while Truffaut is my favourite director. I say he is, because for me he is still with us, through his movies. I love his cinema, all of it, for its infinite lightness and true romantic spirit. Truffaut was a real romantic because he was so suspicious of it and in this attitude of his there was such a profound irony.

Most of the comical situations in the movie are due to the clash between different cultures and languages, and also to the misunderstandings generated by the internet...
That's my favourite part of the film: that funny relationship that goes on between the two internet lovers, because beside being an extremely new phenomenon, it gives you a lot of comical starting points to write funny scenes based on misunderstandings, anonymity, and fake identities. The internet is an extraordinary medium that gives people the chance to meet even if they live on different sides of the world, but it also allows so many mistakes and misunderstandings that aren't always a negative thing. Actually the net can cause disillusionment but also positive surprises. And love, for me, is often the result of mistakes and surprises!

Do you chat on internet?
I have actually just started two months ago. It's fun but I don't have much time for it. I use the net mostly for work purposes.

And would you look for romance in the net?
I don't know... the net is interesting and inviting but it can also be quite perverse, because at the beginning you're totally safe, hidden behind your anonymity, nobody knows who you really are or what you look like and you can let go of your inhibitions and feel very free, but after a while, if you want a real relationship and not just a virtual one, you have to actually meet the other person and that's where the problems usually start. Or maybe not, and everything works just wonderfully. Who can say what can happen?

(June 15, 2000)

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Bruno Barreto with Amy Irving

- Australian release: June 15, 2000, Melbourne; other cities to follow.

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