In Tony Fletcher’s excellent 1998 biography ‘Keith Moon: Dear Boy’, he quotes legendary rock guitarist Jeff Beck making a valiant effort to describe Keith Moon’s drumming. In the end Beck could merely shrug and offer up “He was the most incredible drummer. You can’t mimic him. Nobody’s been able to do it. I could describe a car crash easier than I could describe his drumming…”
So it was a similar feeling I had when coming away from watching Louis Myles’ part-documentary, part-dramatised total headspin of a debut feature film ‘Kaiser: The Greatest Footballer Never To Play Football’. The title may well be set in the crazy world of (mostly) Brazilian domestic football, but the story is universal.
The parallels with Keith Moon’s story only go so far – Moon really was a fantastic drummer; Kaiser really was a donkey at football – and the latter needed to hide that fact away. But the stories concocted of myths wrapped within the enigma, surrounded by mystery are now stuff of legend. Everyone has a story on Keith Moon – especially those who’ve never met him. Kaiser, on the other hand, is the one telling the stories.
Carlos ‘Kaiser’ Henrique Raposo was someone from the wrong side of the tracks, raised in the favelas of Rio who wanted to fit in, experience the life and live the dream of a professional footballer. So when he felt he could con his way into ‘playing’ football in such an obsessive city as Rio de Janeiro, the balls required to carry this off have to be enormous. And yet Carlos Kaiser managed it for 26 years. That’s 26 YEARS.
In the era of the internet and instant information, there is no way anyone could pull this stunt off today, meaning Kaiser himself is able to tell his own stories with the same devil-may-care attitude for the truth as he did for winging the legitimacy of his ‘playing’ career.
Are they true? A large pot of salt to hand may be required to get through this movie – and therein lies the craft within Myles’ storytelling. And the end of the film you think – ‘who cares if they’re true? They’re fantastic…’. Myles himself offers no answers; it’s the stories which ARE the story, and it’s left for the viewer to extrapolate exactly what Kaiser has been trying to achieve – then and now.
The fact that this film is based in football-obsessed Rio is beside the point. This is no ordinary talking heads documentary. The film is fast-paced, the stories are incredible and the imagery hypnotic and erotic, and Myles ensures the relentless visual orgy you are subject to set the tone for the first 85% of the movie’s running time. Only towards to the end do we get a breather; and even then the main protagonist and the director continue to dance a merry samba with our emotions.
‘Kaiser’ may well also serve as a case study in whichever ‘-ology’ one considers appropriate when making a study of the human condition. Leaving the cinema, no-one spoke of the appearances of some of Brazil’s finest players (Bebeto, Zico, Carlos Alberto – and others) or the conning of the local bicheiro; it was all about Kaiser and the never-ending subject of human frailties.
PS: The UK has produced – and continues to produce – some excellent, high quality film makers who, because of the nature of the work they do, don’t fit in to the mainstream, and as such don’t get the recognition they deserve. Louis Myles’ first feature deserves to be seen as far and as wide as possible, so if your local cinema isn’t showing ‘Kaiser’, get in touch with them, and make sure they do.