A Repartição do Tempo [Punch the Clock] (2016)

(Literal Translation: The Time Breakdown)

I haven’t seen too many Brazilian Science Fiction films.

There have been more than you’d think, although the one which might have come to your attention was the excellent Indie comedy, The Man from the Future (2011), which got a little play here in the United States.

Somehow or other, though, no one seems to have noticed this black and satiric little time-meddling comedy at the time it came out.

I say “Time Meddling” rather than time travel as the machine in question seems to be creating alternate timelines.

…No, that’s not quite it, either.  The alternate timelines coexist with each other.  You see, as the genius inventor who came up with the time machine is quick to point out, meeting yourself is not impossible, nor will it destroy the universe in a sudden devastating paradox.

Which, you’ll admit is rather handy, if you want to create time clones to do your work for you.

At the patent office in Brasilia, you can — if you are very lucky — get your new invention patented in a mere ten years.

Or maybe Fifteen.

In fact, it is the slowest and most appallingly inefficient patent office in all of Brazil, so bad that they actually got featured in a major news magazine.  This infuriates the incompetent manager, Lisboa — and his Senator mother, who got him the job, is even more furious that he couldn’t even do something simple like running an unimportant bureaucratic post without making the national news.

When he accidentally discovers that the time machine created by genius inventor Dr. Brazil actually works, Lisboa hits on a terrible scheme force his lazy workers to do a bit of work for once.

Can his workers stop his plan before it repeats — and will anyone believe their story?

After all, we all know you can’t just duplicate people…

Now you know that the time travel film you are watching is swinging for the fence when the villain tests to see if the time loops really are separate by shooting himself.  We can argue about whether this notion of time travel makes sense, but the story does more or less apply it consistently — not that the machine gets used that much nor do we have too many time trips to keep track of.

Instead, the focus is on the Office Space-style portrayal of the Patent Office, and on the mind-numbing bureaucracy and inefficiency of modern Brazil.  Its incompetence and unwillingness to help anyone, its blind obsession with petty rules and processes bears a frightening resemblance to Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.

And I’m sure that writer/director Santiago Dellape is well aware of that resemblance.

Perhaps the bureaucracy’s finest moment comes when the hero tries to explain his plight to the 911 dispatcher, who is busy painting her nails, only to be told he has to call another hotline — which is answered by the same operator, who has a second phone on her desk.

There’s also a nice reference at the beginning, as a character wheels a cartload of inventions into storage, to that legendary moment in Raiders of the Lost Ark — and a sudden switch to motion comics near the end.

This all leads to a surprisingly thoughtful conclusion about how circumstances shape us as individuals — although A Repartição do Tempo doesn’t let itself be serious for too long, and ends at an even more absurd point.

The end result is a black and inventive comedy, with a number of interesting characters and a few unexpected plot twists.  It neatly skewers Brazilian politics and public institutions and office politics.

And, yeah, we all know the two cops are based on the air conditioner repairmen in Brazil.  We’ve seen the movie, too.

So don’t let the subtitles daunt you, A Repartição do Tempo is too much fun to be missed for such a trivial reason.

Although it would help if you knew which hotline you should call…

(Watch for free on Tubi)



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