How Tasty was My Little Frenchman
Brazil is a country where the separatism of racial groups has a broad spectrum unlike the United States where one is black or white. In Brazil there are racial descriptions that range through three strata of mulatto and the distinction of being black or white. This realization is necessary to decode the metaphors from How Tasty ... and understand the various pressures and tensions of the characters as they struggle to blend into the world of the West. The representation of "barbarism’ and ‘cannibalism’ extends throughout the strata of Brazilian class dealt with in the film.
The story follows a French gunner (at the top of the white spectrum) pursued by Portuguese soldiers ( Westerners indeed, but one step down from being white) into the hungry arms of an indigenous tribe (in this spectrum sub-level three) who are presently at war with a less sophisticated rival tribe ( and perhaps being a shade darker and unable to speak French this tribe is the lowest and darkest end of the spectrum). The head count on the characters of the movie are more or less equivalent to the population of modern day Brazil. This equivalency is a clue for reading the movie as a critique of the present. The French gunner is captured and allowed to live in the village and keep a wife, providing that in eight months he be eaten by the tribe. While living amongst the natives he adopts some of their habits and then tries to teach them about architecture, agriculture, and later as a desperate plea he barters with the ability to produce gunpowder. The gunpowder implies the present day situation wherein the West subsidizes Brazil with military supplies tied to privileges with the resources for the West (the Frenchman seeks to gain the silver buried near the village and perhaps to keep his loaner wife). The filmmakers show the motive to gain military strength in the Indian populace as ‘barabaric’ (ie: "lacking restraint"). This futility ends in a slaughter by whites who return after the Frenchman. The most important message of the movie is an existentialist condemnation of the efforts of the Indians to eat the white man ( thereby gaining his strength- a belief most cannibalistic tribes hold even though not stated in the film) and moreover of the "whitening" process in modern Brazil where diverse racial stratification is acknowledged but only under the condition that people try to get whiter. The filmmakers see nothing but a dead end in trying to become Caucasian and history is the evidence they have to charge the modern world with.
B A C K to Third World Cinema I N D E X