I Travel Because I Have To, I Come Back Because I Love You: Unreal Realism
You never see the protagonist in I Travel Because I Have To, I Come Back Because I Love You. He picks up the phrase of the title after he sees it on a sign by the side of the dusty Brazilian road he's driving on. Everything you know about him, you pick up while he's talking and you're looking at Brazil. It's a really, really nice conceit that makes what's happening seem real even while it's obviously a total construction. The way the movie moves, the way it's cut, mimics the action of consciousness, the way the mind wanders, the way sound cuts out sometimes and all you hear is the voice in your head, the way sometimes what you're looking at and what you're thinking have nothing to do with each other.
Sometimes this movie feels sentimental, sometimes political. Unforgettably, a family of four daughters, two sons, and a mother and father appear in one scene just standing still in their house in the middle of nowhere. They have no electricity and they are extremely isolated, the narrator tells us. How is this possibly working? Have they all gone mad? Are they a real family or a figment of the director's imagination? The narrator at first says, with some surprise, that they seem happy to him. (There is no dialogue in this movie, just his monologue, music, ambient sounds.) Then he says no, actually, they don't. While he's having this shift, their faces haven't changed—it's one of those moments in the movie when you're not even sure whether this is a still photo or a moving picture.
There are heaps of unexpected beauty here, thanks to the unreal realism of the filmmakers (Karim Ainouz and Marcelo Gomes). In the middle of the film, the narrator plunges into a midlife crisis involving a string of prostitutes. I think it was supposed to give the movie a dark heart—possibly to provide a documentaryish glimpse at Brazilian prostitution (the way the family may have been meant to portray real-life poverty and isolation)—but instead it felt like the movie temporarily got dumber and clichéd. The movie has its own heart and didn't need another one.