DIAMANTINO (dir. Gabriel Abrantes & Daniel Schmidt): Philadelphia Film Festival review

From Portugal comes what is easily the funniest movie of the Philadelphia Film Festival, and the funniest film of 2018 outright. That said, it’s not a film for everyone given how powerfully weird it is. But it’s a good weird — a smart weird — with just about every large scale societal ill set in its wildly satirical sights. The easy point of comparison would be to call it Zoolander by way of Danger: Diabolik, but even that feels somewhat cheap given the thematic/stylistic aims of Diamantino.

How to describe it? Well, let’s start at the most basic: Diamantino Matamouros is the greatest soccer player who has ever lived. When he gets his feet on the ball, there is no one on the planet who can keep him from scoring. He effortlessly dances around defenders as if they aren’t even there, and he always knows exactly how to place the ball in the net. How does he do it? Well, when Diamantino is in the zone, it’s as if he’s not playing soccer at all. To him, the field turns into a sensually ideal plane of swirling pink smoke, populated entirely by gigantic puppies. There are no distractions in this fantasy world, and while he’s inside of it Diamantino simply cannot he stopped.

One sad day, however, while the soccer superstar is relaxing on his boat, he comes across a raft of refugees and is moved so deeply by their plight that for the first time in his privileged life, Diamantino is deeply shaken. This new distraction causes him to lose the World Cup while the world is watching, leading indirectly to the death of his father, and the assumption of his father’s management duties by his evil (and unrelentingly hilarious) sisters.

This is just the beginning, but to say more would be to rob potential viewers of experiencing a truly demented plot line involving clones, espionage, hidden identities, talk shows, Brexit, and Bond villain-esque super fortresses. It’s positively mad.

Yet amidst the insanity is an uncharacteristic wholesome streak, carried on the back of a uniquely lovable character. You see, Diamantino is as dumb as a bag of rocks. He simply doesn’t have the knowledge to be anything less than kind and caring. Sure, his “whatever you say” mentality mixed with his superhuman ability to trust anyone is what allows the evils around him to flourish, but his infallible conviction to do the right thing proves stronger than any den of villainy on the planet.

Yes, the threats he faces are global

Co-writers/directors Abrantes and Schmidt draw upon a litany of visual influences, most notably late-sixties European spy movies, but trough a sleeker, more modern lens. The humor ranges from supremely silly sight gags to razor sharp satire, and all of it is based in strong character work, put forth by a tremendous cast. It couldn’t have been easy to find so many committed performers who ‘get’ such oddball material, nor would it have been simple to present this concept at a pitch meeting. But here we are, at the feet of a comedic idol so unique, so ridiculous, and so deceptively smart that we must all worship it. Long live Diamantino!

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