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'Aquarius'' tale of social and political decay is richly told

'Aquarius'' tale of social and political decay is richly told
Sonia Braga in the 2016 film "Aquarius." (Victor Juc / CinemaScupio)

The critic-turned-filmmaker Kleber Mendonça Filho ("Neighboring Sounds") has proved an unusually incisive chronicler of life in his native Brazil, telling stories that blend analytical insight with rueful humanity. In his marvelous 2016 feature, "Aquarius," newly available on DVD, he turns a dilapidated apartment complex into a rich metaphor for social and political decay.

The lone inhabitant of that metaphor is Clara, a smart, stubborn 65-year-old retired music journalist played to role-of-a-lifetime perfection by the great Sonia Braga. It's thrilling to watch Clara take on the developers trying to force her out of her home, a battle that comes to embody a deeper struggle. "Aquarius" is a powerful defense of individual human liberty in the face of an indifferent system, a film about the wistful pleasures of memory that is itself impossible to forget.

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