Manoel de Oliveira – Aniki Bóbó (1942)

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The story takes place in the old streets of Porto and by the banks of the Douro River. A gang of very young kids has just accepted a new member, Carlitos, a shy boy who has “played it tough” by stealing a doll in a shop. Carlitos soon develops a crush on Terezinha,the only girl of the group. The trouble is that Eduardo, the “boss”, is also in love with the pretty little girl. And he will not allow any rival to challenge him… Continue reading

Manoel de Oliveira – Francisca (1981)

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Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira made this amazing film in 1981, at the age of 72; as powerful as it is stark, it suggests a blending of the modernist, minimalist techniques of Jean-Marie Straub with the elusive spiritual subject matter of Max Ophuls. In 19th-century Portugal, a rising young novelist falls in love with the daughter of an English army officer, provoking the obscure envy of an aristocratic friend, who resolves to marry the girl himself and make her suffer for her betrayal. The baroque plot is presented in a series of single-take tableaux, which do not attempt to embody the drama as much as allude to it, leaving the dense and passionate feelings to take shape entirely in the spectator’s mind. Oliveira limits himself to showing only what can truly be shown: not the story but a representation of the story, not the emotions but their material manifestations as they have crossed the decades. A masterpiece of the modern cinema, difficult but extremely rewarding.

Review by Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader: Continue reading

Manoel de Oliveira – A Caça AKA The Hunt (1964)

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“A caça” is one Oliveira’s most distressing and mysterious films. Two boys, Roberto and José, enter a hunting ground, flooded with marshes. José falls into a quagmire and Roberto runs to the village looking for help. The locals form a human chain to save the victim…

“I conceived ‘A caça’ after reading in a newspaper that a boy was sucked down into a pit of quicksand and the other, due to fear, fled without helping him. The movie is based on this event.” In this laconic way, Oliveira summarizes his purpose. His first intention was to make a feature film about such an anguishing event. Continue reading

Manoel de Oliveira – O Velho do Restelo AKA The Old Man of Belem (2014)

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Glory is often met with opposition, and whether victorious or defeated, we always hold fate responsible. Don Quixote de La Mancha came along sixteen years after the defeat of the Invincible Fleet and has erred the Earth ever since. Today he will join a meeting between old friends in the garden of eternity, in which the glories of the past and the uncertainty of the future will be thoroughly discussed. Continue reading

Manoel de Oliveira – Visita ou Memórias e Confissões AKA Memories and Confessions (1982/2015)

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73-year-old De Oliveira decides to make a personal movie that his audience will only know once heis dead. In 1982, the director takes the decision to make a movie about (and in) his (ex) house, in which he lived for over 40 years. The initial still shot is held for a long while with the presence oftrees in the garden of his house in Oporto. De Oliveira himself introduces the film and speaks all the credits out. The voices of a man and a woman guide us for most of the first part, in a sort of preliminary and formal tour around the totality of the house. They remain out of frame and the camera perspective is not necessarily theirs. After a few minutes, we see De Oliveira for the first time, writing on a typewriter at his desk. The most surprising element, in narrative terms, is the recreation of his arrest and his stay in a dungeon in times of the Portuguese military regime, during the 60s. Right from the start, the word memoryis a relevant operative term; the confession becomes explicit around half through the film. Continue reading

Manoel de Oliveira – O Estranho Caso de Angélica AKA The Strange Case of Angelica (2010)

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Isaac is a young photographer living in a boarding house in Régua. In the middle of the night, he receives an urgent call from a wealthy family to come and take the last photograph of their daughter, Angelica, who died just a few days after her wedding. Arriving at the house of mourning, Isaac gets his first glimpse of Angelica and is overwhelmed by her beauty. As soon as he looks at her through the lens of his camera, the young woman appears to come back to life just for him. Isaac instantly falls in love with her. From that moment on, Angelica will haunt him night and day, until exhaustion. Continue reading