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

João Botelho – Quem És Tu? AKA Who Are You? (2001)

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Aged 13, Maria Noronha is an estremely pale and fragil girl, sick with tubercolosis. In order to alleviate her suffering, she gathers poppies from her garden, and at night puts them on the pillows on her bed. But the poppies have a devastating effect. Her deep sleep is disturbed by terrible ghosts and hallucinations: about the decadence of the Portuguese XVII century, the Jesuits’s power and the terrible Inquisition. Continue reading

António da Cunha Telles – O Cerco AKA Besieged AKA The Circle (1970)

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A young woman leaves her abusive husband to become the mistress of a married American living in Lisbon. He pays for her apartment, and she becomes a model. After an affair with a photographer and a small-time drug dealer, she manages to liberate herself from her dependency on male authority figures. She brings a new attitude and newfound personal freedom into her life while fighting in a society not ready to accept her views in this poignant drama. ~ Dan Pavlides, Rovi

A portrait of the Portuguese urban society of the seventies. The story of Marta, a young and pretty girl who leaves her husband in search of her true identity. She doesn’t quite know what she wants, but at least she knows what she’s escaping from. Soon she encounters financial difficulties and finds herself involved with shady characters, a situation that leads to a mysterious murder.
She is trapped…
An outstanding performance by Maria Cabral. Continue reading

João Vladimiro – Lacrau (2013)

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If the scorpion could see and the viper could hear, there would be no escape”. The viper is deaf and the scorpion can’t see, so it is and so shall be, the same way the countryside is peaceful and the city bustling and the human being impossible to satisfy. Lacrau demands the return “to the curve where man got lost” in a journey from the city towards nature. The escape from chaos and emotional void we call progress; matter without spirit, without will. The search for the most ancient sensations and relationships of mankind. The amazement, the fear of the unknown, the loss of basic comforts, loneliness, the meeting with the other, the other animal, the other vegetable. A dive looking for a connection with the world. Where beginning and end are the same, but I am not. (João Vladimiro) Continue reading

Pablo Chavarría Gutiérrez – Alexfilm (2015)

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A lovingly framed day-in-the-life portrait of a man waiting for an important event that never comes. Marked by a light touch and emphasizing openness over conventional, linear narrative, biologist-turned-filmmaker Pablo Chavarria Gutiérrez documents the rhythms of a man awaiting an important event that never comes. As he cooks breakfast, naps, paints, tries on sunglasses, and wanders through different rooms in his home, Chavarria Guitérrez lovingly frames every action in beautiful natural light, allowing each moment to flow to the next while maintaining its own transcendent essence. Continue reading

Lois Patiño – Noite Sem Distância AKA Night Without Distance (2015)

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Synopsis:
An instant in the memory of landscape: the smuggling that for centuries crossed the line between Portugal and Galicia. The Gerês Mountains knows no borders, and rocks cross from one country to another with insolence. Smugglers also disobey this separation. The rocks, the river, the trees: silent witnesses, help them to hide. They just have to wait for the night to cross the distance that separates them. Continue reading

Fernando Lopes – Uma Abelha na Chuva AKA A Bee in the Rain (1972)

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This Portuguese drama examines the daily life minutiae and intrigues of two scions of society in the rural village where they live. One is a wealthy landowner, the other a widowed aristocrat who lives in a world of her own. “Starting off from a fine novel by Carlos de Oliveira, Fernando Lopes doesn’t so mush reconstitute a story, but rather defines an atmosphere parallel to that which exists in the literary work. The erosion of time, the crumbling of an epoch, the decline of a stately home, the disintegration of emotions: the film version of A Bee in the Rain talks about all these things, using a language that is sparse and unpolished, fascinating and at the same time repulsive in its disturbing silence” (Lauro Antonio). Continue reading