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. Continue reading

Miguel Gonçalves Mendes – José e Pilar (2010)

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“The Elephant’s Journey”, in which Saramago narrates the adventures and antics of an elephant transported from the court of King John III of Portugal to that of the Austrian Archduke Maximillian, is the starting point of José and Pilar.

It shows us their day to day life in Lanzarote, at home and on work trips around
the globe. José and Pilar is a surprising portrayal of an author throughout the
creative process and of the relationship of a couple dedicated to changing the
world, or at least trying to make it a better place. Continue reading

Raoul Ruiz – Mistérios de Lisboa AKA Mysteries of Lisbon (2010)

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Raúl Ruiz is one of the great cinematic self-perpetuators, like Louis Feuillade and Jacques Rivette—a film like this gathers a motion and a rhythm that makes it feel like it could on and on, self-generating new stories and new characters ad infinitum.  Based on the novel by Camilo Castelo Branco (whose writing has been the source for Oliveira’s similarly fatalistic romance,Doomed Love), Mysteries of Lisbon is, to paraphrase a line from one of its many characters used to describe a disastrous relationship he had, a game that turns into a bourgeois romantic drama, to which I would add, that turns into a game.  It starts—as all stories must?—with an orphaned boy questioning his parentage and falling into a fever, and out of that starting point the film evolves less as a story than a cartography of characters crossing points in space and time.  On paper it is indeed all melodrama: identities revealed, lives saved in the past coming back to haunt the saviors, secret connections, loves turns to hatreds. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

João Nuno Pinto – América (2010)

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America a tragic story told in a burlesque and ironic way, within a love triangle. Liza, a beautiful young Russian woman, is married to Victor, a small-time crook who lives on scheming and swindling, born and bred in Portugal. Fernanda, the ex wife, who ten year’s passed decides to drop by, is the gang leader, an Andalusian Spaniard. Victor has to decide which women to follow, Liza cannot really leave him, Fernanda doesn’t really want to stay. The six year old kid hangs everybody by a string. Eastern European newcomers give new business perspectives that are going to rock their small world by the beach: Cova do Vapor. A chaotic neighborhood of precarious housing located at Lisbon’s gates, where the Tagus River meets the Atlantic, where fishermen and retired factory workers coexist. An obscure little place, where everything suddenly changes, even the weather. After a violent storm, the gangster’s house gets a rusted fishing boat hanging on top of their home. In the midst of the tragedy, there’s always room for love, and most of all, hope for a piece paper called passport, sometimes fake! Continue reading

João Nicolau – John From (2015)

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Rita has it all. She is 15 years old and the summer is ahead of her. She floods the balcony floor and splashes about while soaking up the mighty sun. She has an ex-future boyfriend and an ever-present best friend. She braids her hair and goes to parties.
Naturally, from Portugal to the South Pacific, this whole fortress gently falls apart when Rita visits the exhibition put on by a new neighbour in the local community center. Continue reading