Manoel de Oliveira

Manoel de Oliveira – Le soulier de satin AKA The Satin Slipper (1985)

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The Satin Slipper is a near seven hour metafictional trans-continental theatrical epic, realised by Manoel de Oliveira from the staged period drama of Paul Claudel. It is weighty, inspiring, and exquisitely beautiful. The movie opens with two quotes, which frame the film, regarding the mysterious ways of God, the second of which, “etiam peccata”, “even sins”, is a reference to St Augustine, who added this to a then famous phrase, giving, “Omnia cooperantur in bonum, etiam peccata”, which is to say that everything happens for the glory of God, even sin.

The opening scene contains an exhortation by a dying priest, that his brother, Don Rodrigo, who has given up his studying for the priesthood, in favour of an exploration of power, for yoking the world to his will, be led back onto the path of righteousness, and that his sins be Augustinian in nature. Rodrigo’s journey provides a skeleton for the movie, which however contains numerous supplementary stories and messages. Read More »

Manoel de Oliveira – Acto da Primavera AKA Rite of Spring (1963)

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Oliveira returned to the center of Portugal’s film scene in the 1960s with Acto da Primavera (Rite of spring; 1963), a work that marks a significant change in the director’s trajectory and that initiates some of the cinematic strategies that he would develop more fully in later films. In Acto da Primavera, Oliveira offers a version of a popular representation of the Passion of Christ, enacted by members of a rural community in northern Portugal, derived from the Auto da Paixão de Jesus Cristo (1559), by Francisco Vaz de Guimarães. He came across the annual Easter drama in the small town of Curalha when he was looking for locations for “O Pão,” and he was so taken by it that he wanted to return and register it on film. Read More »

Manoel de Oliveira – O Pão AKA Bread [Short Version] (1959)

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Each day, a man must work around the clock to produce and acquire bread: throwing the seeds into earth, helping the breeding of the corn, the corn’s recolt, transport to the mills, manipulation of the flour into actual bread, transport to a variety of locations and consumers. Read More »

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… Read More »

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: Read More »

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. Read More »

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. Read More »