By Janet Tappin Coelho in Rio de Janeiro

Rio Carnival pulled a series of impressive faces this year with some weird and wonderful looks. From Michael Jackson’s Thriller to faces depicting fine art paint brushes, the five day annual bash had some sublime touches, a few of which are shown here.

Pic by Gabriel Nascimento. Riotur/Caters News: A Michael Jackson Thriller lookalike took to the Sambadrome for Unidos do Viradouro samba school at the Rio Carnival.

But behind the painted faces, samba organisers frowned on the disappearance of the city mayor, Marcelo Crivella, who absented himself from the world’s biggest party to go on a business trip to Europe.

After being heavily criticised last year for not attending the Carnival, Crivella, a former Bishop with Brazil’s evangelical Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, did the honours at the start of this year’s show but promptly made his excuses.

In a social media post he said: “Every care has been taken to ensure the Rio Carnival is amazing. Now I’m off to meet the European Space Agency and companies (in Europe) that provide security technology.” He added he would be back on Thursday this week.

Pic by Paulo Portilho. Riotur/Caters News: This performer took on a gruesome zombie looking role for Academicos de Santa Cruz samba school at the Rio Carnival.

The mayor’s trip comes as police reported an almost 700 per cent increase in robberies and thefts of mobile phones, documents and cash on the city’s streets during the festivities, with tourists being assaulted by criminal gangs steaming through crowds as well as attacking individuals.

On Monday (12 February) Rio military police spokesman, Major Ivan Blaz, pleaded with party goers to follow international security protocols promoted in other major cities around the world such as New York, Paris and London.

Major Blaz said: “Revellers can take steps themselves to avoid becoming victims of assaults. Party goers need to adopt the international security protocols not to wear jewellery or to stand with cell phones taking selfies in a crowd.”

Pic by Robson Coelho. Focus On News/Caters News: Queen of the Bateria or drums for Imperio da Tijuca takes green to new levels at the Rio Carnival.

Despite the worrying rise in street violence, carnival organisers once again pulled off a spectacular affair with the stands in the Sambadrome packed with spectators for the showcase event.

And this year a couple samba schools took politically charged aim at politicians. Mangueira directed its anger at the mayor’s decision to slash the premiere samba schools’ subsidies in hefty budget cuts.

Alluding to Crivella’s 2016 election promise to support the Carnival, the school portrayed the mayor as a doll with a ‘Judas’ rope around its neck. Wording on the plaque hanging from the dummy instructed the mayor to join in the Carnival by picking up the ‘ganza’ a Brazilian percussion rattle especially used in samba music. And an additional warning painted on colourful boards underneath said: “Mayor, it’s a sin not to enjoy Carnival.”

Paraíso do Tuiuti took a broader swipe, directing its artistic venom at Brazilian President Michel Temer, portraying him as a vampire in a protest against the impeachment of former President Dilma Rousseff.

Pic by Robson Coelho. Focus On News/Caters News: One of the tiger-faced dancers with Mangueira samba school at the Rio Carnival.

While Carnival bosses admitted this year, they have struggled to put the show on the road because of the funding crisis, they proved that despite the hardships their mask hasn’t slipped, and the painted smiles of determination are still strong.

That being said, there were a few tears of frustration from performers with Academicos do Grande Rio samba school. One of the floats broke down which meant the parade failed to finish within the allotted time, coming in five minutes over the one hour and 20 minutes allowed.

One performer who sobbed her heart out with the disappointment was given a strong telling off to pull herself together by a colleague and told to continue dancing because the ‘show must go on.’