“Remember when we talked about being alone in the world?” Sara is a genderfluid blue-collar worker who lives as her male birth identity Robson by day while caring for her religious grandmother in Sobradinho, a small town in the northeast of Brazil. Daniel, who teaches in a police academy in southern metropolis Curitiba, has been placed on unpaid leave after a violent incident that’s all over the news. The only thing holding him together is his online romance with Sara, whom he has never met in person. When she suddenly disappears, Daniel drives 2,000 miles across Brazil to find her. He posts Sara’s picture all over town but no one recognizes her, until he receives a mysterious call from someone claiming to know her and asking to meet. What follows is a journey of the heart that will change Sara and Daniel forever. In the tradition of A Fantastic Woman and Strawberry and Chocolate, the film is both a swooning sun-baked romance and a triumphant affirmation of queer love and humanity at a time when LGBTQ+ rights are increasingly imperiled everywhere. An official selection of the Venice Film Festival and Brazil’s official submission to the 94th Academy Awards®, Private Desert boasts lush cinematography and a haunting atmospheric score. You’ll never hear “Total Eclipse of the Heart” the same again.
For thoughts on Private Desert, please check out our discussion on The Video Attic:
Private Desert comes to Blu-Ray in a 1080p presentation that really makes an impression. This takes place in an array of different landscapes including dry desert expanses and some vibrant enclaves of vegetation. All of this provides a sumptuous visual experience where you can see an incredible amount of detail. There are some pops of striking colors throughout, especially in some of the lighting choices. There is nothing candy colored here, but Muritiba frames the natural world in a way that is just as moving. White levels are handled well with no instances of blooming, and the deep blacks that do not appear to suffer from crush or compression artifacts. The transfer allows for some texture within the costumes and production design that adds depth to the picture. Skin tones are detailed and natural all around. This presentation knocks it out of the park.
The Blu-Ray disc comes with both a DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 Master Audio track in the original Portuguese that works flawlessly in conjunction with this story. The dialogue comes through clearly without ever being overshadowed by the sound effects or the music. Environmental effects create a really distinct soundscape of nature and urban life that makes the world feel more lived-in. The film also uses music in really effective ways which fills the room appropriately. The sound design remains pinpoint accurate with sounds positioned just right in the mix. This is not an action-heavy film, but activity in the low end adds some textures to certain scenes during the bustling nightlife. This is a great sounding release from top to bottom. There are optional English subtitles provided.
Private Desert embarks on its journey with a slight handicap as it has an extremely unsympathetic focal character who does not complement this with an engaging arc. It is only when we get to the other key character in the film that the story truly grabs your attention and keeps you riveted. The interplay between the two is great, but the movie feels a bit off balance once you reach the end. The highs are enough to make this worth a watch, but the film does not nail the emotional complexity of all of the characters as well as it thinks it does. Kino Lorber has provided a Blu-Ray featuring a great A/V presentation but next to nothing in the way of special features. If you are a fan of international or queer cinema, there is enough good here to check it out Recommended
Private Desert is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray and Digital.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Kino Lorber has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.
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