Tropicália is a beautiful love letter to the Brazilian artistic movement of the late 1960s. With a flamboyance and flair that matches its subject matter, the 2012 documentary combines dazzling archival footage with a fascinating history of political rebellion.
Decades before he became Brazil’s Minister of Culture, Gilberto Gil and his musical comrade Caetano Veloso were locked up by the country’s right wing military regime. As leaders of the tropicália movement, their collision of traditional music with northern hemisphere psychedelia was perceived as a threat to the cultural status quo. Watching the film’s black and white footage of Gal Costa unleashing a torrent of screams on national television, it’s easy to sense how their revolution started.
Director Marcelo Machado’s decision to include extended live performances makes the documentary a joyful experience. In their psychedelic costumes, Os Mutantes look like Brazil’s answer to The Monkees, but they sound incredible. Elsewhere, Gil and Costa’s set at the Isle of Wight becomes a hippy stage invasion jam for an audience of 50,000. Ultimately, Tropicália succeeds by making you feel like you’re at the party.