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'Música': Rudy Mancuso, Camila Mendes created a Brazilian-American musical masterpiece

"As a filmmaker, we're always trying to bring as much authenticity to screen as possible," Mancuso said

Música (on Prime Video) proves that the movie's co-writer, director and star Rudy Mancuso is nothing short of brilliant, crafting an impressively unique, innovative and truly enticing rom-com. Working alongside him is Mancuso's brilliant costar Camila Mendes, a rom-com sensation after her previous Prime Video film Upgraded.

Amazon MGM Studios

Watch Música on Prime Video with a 30-day free trial, then $9.99/month

$10 at Prime Video

Rudy (Mancuso) is a puppeteer who performs in subway stations and has synesthesia, a heightened sense where sounds in everyday life are music and rhythms in Rudy's head. While Rudy is an exceptionally talented artist, he's also a college student and lives with his mother Maria (played by Mancuso's actual mother, Maria Mancuso), in Newark, New Jersey.

As he approaches graduation day, Rudy is battling between really pursuing a career as a puppeteer, or starting his career in marketing.

In addition to career chaos, Rudy's personal life is messy as well. His girlfriend Haley (Francesca Reale) is already planning for them to move in together after graduation, while Rudy's mother wants him to date a nice Brazilian girl. Then when Rudy meets Isabella (Mendes), a Brazilian-American woman who works at a local fish market, a love triangle starts to form, complicating Rudy's life even more.

Watch: 'Música' stars Rudy Mancuso, Camila Mendes on visualizing synesthesia, telling an authentic Brazilian-American musical story

What does synesthesia look like?

A core element of Música is how Rudy's synesthesia (a condition Mancuso actually has) is visually represented throughout the film. What we see aren't typical musical numbers, but more rhythmic breaks with music and dancing to make the audience understand what's happening in Rudy's head. It's a spectacular way of reinventing how to tell a music-driven story.

"I wanted to depict synesthesia and multi-sensory immersive experience in a cinematic way, and that was a big question, what does that look like? What does that feel like?" Mancuso told Yahoo Canada. "We shot with multiple cameras and I worked closely with my [director of photography] on creating the schematic for every set piece."

"A big part of it was actually performance. It was less so about how it was shot and more so about how it was performed on the day. We call them rhythm performers, but almost every performer, ... was either on or was in the show Stomp or Street Drum Corps, so they were masters at turning any miscellaneous objects or setting into a musical instrument."

Amazon MGM Studios

Watch Música on Prime Video with a 30-day free trial, then $9.99/month

$10 at Prime Video

Mancuso added that it was really about rehearsing those moments and making sure they were "being actualized live," with less to "cheat" from the camera's perspective.

"I talked a lot with my DP about the juxtaposition between the grounded and the fantastical," Mancuso said.

"Every time music starts to creep into a scene, the frame rate would change slightly, the colours would change slightly, and lensing would change slightly, and we'd go from camera movement to static, we'd go from handheld to crane. We played with a lot of different looks and feels, but the real work was in the performance."

Rudy Mancuso and Camila Mendes in Música (Amazon MGM Studios)
Rudy Mancuso and Camila Mendes in Música (Amazon MGM Studios)

'Really hard for me to perceive being Brazilian-American as an asset in Hollywood'

Mendes caught our attention in Riverdale, and made us laugh and swoon in Upgraded, and this is the first time the actor has actually had the opportunity to play a Brazilian-American character.

"I have something really specific and personal that I can bring to the role," Mendes said. "It was really hard for me to perceive me being Brazilian-American as an asset in Hollywood, because there was nobody calling for it, so to have that quality naturally and to be able to bring that to this character was amazing."

"I got to also work with Rudy and really develop her character to feel very specific to me and my experiences. So that in some ways, ... try to bring that personal experience to my character to match, to my best ability, how personal this movie is to him, to give it that specificity with Isabella's character."

Maria Mancuso and Rudy Mancuso in Música (Prime Video)
Maria Mancuso and Rudy Mancuso in Música (Prime Video)

'We're always trying to bring as much authenticity to screen as possible'

While Mancuso is very personally connected to his character and this story, from the synesthesia to him creating puppet-based content on YouTube, the film's co-writer, director and star also made the decision to put his mother in the movie, and film in his childhood home.

"My mom was was telling crew members to take off their shoes in the middle of a take," Mancuso said.

"I got to to shoot in my childhood home and recreate conversations I've actually had with my mom and have my mom, playing my mom. It was as authentic of an experience as possible. As a filmmaker, we're always trying to bring as much authenticity to screen as possible and that job was made a lot easier because of the nature of the setting and actors being real people, and places I'm using."

It is really that specificity in the film, for all the characters involved and the story at large, that makes Música feel particularly special. It's a prime example of how universal messages and broad appeal really sit in detailed, authentic and specific stories.