This quirky Portuguese comedy won a silver lion at the 1989 Venice Film Festival. The story concerns the irrepressible Joao de Deus (played by the director, Joao Cesar Monteiro), an ill-kempt, lusty and none-too-honest resident of Violeta’s boarding house, which happens to have yellow walls. Joao, who has no visible means of support, is in his fifties, and is not above cadging money from his 70 year old mother, who still works as a cleaning lady. He has a wistful sort of lust for the young ladies in the boarding house, and gets a kind of thrill when he is permitted to take a bath in their used water. He strikes up a friendship with a slightly stupid girl who is a mite promiscuous, and even has a brief sexual encounter with her himself. Many slightly “off” encounters occur during the remainder of the film, but despite Joao’s potentially defeating setback near the end, it appears that it won’t be long before he’s back in action.
The impoverished tenant of a Lisbon boarding-house, João de Deus (played to perfection by the writer/director) is one of the great miseries of the movies. He muses, in a dispassionate but doomy voice-over, on death, illness, solitude, and the bedbugs that make a nightly attack on his testicles. As the seedy, sexually frustrated, but occasionally kindly protagonist proceeds towards a pathetic, cracked assault on his harridan landlady’s daughter, it’s hard to know whether to laugh, weep or simply slit your wrists. In the end, it’s that wry, detached sense of comic absurdity that saves the film from plunging into maudlin miserabilism. Using long, often static takes, an elliptical narrative, and stark but stylish compositions, Monteiro sidesteps psychodrama to produce something altogether cooler, more thought-provoking, and more perverse. The film makes its slow way towards the appallingly run-down mental hospital of the title, and a denouement as fantastic as it is subversive. A fascinating, quietly caustic critique of the outmoded mores of Portugal’s petite bourgeoisie.
1.95GB | 2h 2mn | 768×576 | mkv
Subtitles:English, French, Italian, Portuguese (muxed)