City Paper is not for tourists
Much like its 19-year-old protagonist, The Man Who Copied seems to be searching for exactly what it wants to be and what it wants to do with itself. In the southern Brazilian commercial center of Porto Alegre, André (Lázaro Ramos) holds a dead-end job running a photocopier in a small shop, a mindless task that leaves him plenty of time to fantasize about both selling his cartoonish illustrations and hooking up with a female neighbor he regularly spies on from his bedroom window (Leandra Leal). With the dedication of a hardened stalker, André eventually learns the young woman’s routine and even visits the upscale clothing shop where she works, hoping to start up a conversation. He quickly realizes, however, that he doesn’t have enough money to buy anything and vows to get enough cash to return—a naively romantic ambition greatly assisted by a new color photocopier and a borrowed 50-real bill. The working-class world of The Man Who Copied may not be as gritty as the Rio slums seen in 2002’s City of God, but the characters still struggle to get by, as André details in a laundry list of his monthly expenditures, which explains how hard a spare 50 reals would be to come up with honestly. Quietly intense, Madame Satã vet Ramos imbues the cash-strapped title character with an appealing dreaminess that’s believable even as he decides to counterfeit currency simply to chat up his crush. But everything we thought we knew about André changes in the third act—and not in that Hollywood-twist-ending kind of way, either. In fact, the entire tone of the film shifts abruptly as various other felonies—even homicide—are casually undertaken after André’s surveillance reveals that Silvia’s lecherous father (Carlos Cunha) has a thing for watching her, too. Writer-director Jose Furtado’s script doesn’t give its main characters nearly enough motivation for some of the darker actions that come to pass. But then, this is a film with a lot on its mind—including an infatuation with superstylish visuals—so it’s no surprise that something got lost in the shuffle. As it skips back and forth between quirky romance and Rear Window homage, and detours into crime-caper and plan-the-perfect-murder territory—animating one of André’s pictures here, dividing the screen into comic-book frames there—The Man Who Copied is an accurate reflection of its daydreaming hero: nice enough on the surface, full of kooky ideas, and sorely in need of some emotional maturity.