Friday, June 08, 2012

Euro 2012: Portuguese Films

Entry #10 of the Euro 2012 Book & Film Spotlight looks at the two Portuguese films.

Mysteries of Lisbon (2010, Raoul Ruiz)

Mysteries of Lisbon

Mysteries of Lisbon is the last film directed by the fiercely creative and prolific auteur Raoul Ruiz. That seems appropriate given that the story contains multiple narratives, ghosts, memories, secrets and labyrinths; elements normally associated with Ruiz’s films. The film version seen for this Euro spotlight was the 4.5 hour version and not the 6 hour version. Alas, 4.5 hours was not enough to fully enjoy the material. Time dissolves in the face of such delicious material that is packed with numerous tantalizing shots. Different camera angles continuously enhance the visual appeal while the behavior of certain characters pose more questions even when some answers are uncovered.

The Strange Case of Angelica (2010, Manoel de Oliveira)

The Strange Case of Angelica

Isaac (Ricardo Trêpa) is called in to take pictures of the recently deceased Angelica (Pilar López de Ayala). While taking her pictures, Isaac is startled when Angelica opens her eyes. But when he moves his eyes away from the camera, she is still dead. No one else in the room seems to notice her awakening. So Isaac dismisses what he saw but when he looks through his camera lens again, her eyes open. He is thoroughly confused but finishes taking her pictures and leaves. However, he cannot get Angelica’s image out of his mind and starts developing the pictures he took. In the developed pictures, he sees her open eyes peering at him. By now, he is obsessed with her and when Angelica’s spirit visits him, he falls head over heels in love. No one else can understand Isaac’s behavior but that does not stop him because the universe gives him plenty of signs to track her spirit down.

The Strange Case of Angelica is a gentle light film crafted out of deep themes such as the universe, death, ghosts, particles and images. Of course, given his vast experience, it makes sense that only Manoel de Oliveira can handle such challenging themes in a beautiful manner.


Sam Juliano said...

Buffo post on two extraordinary films, both of which made my top ten lists the past two years. MYSTERIES OF LISBON in fact was my #2 movie for 2012, and I am the proud owner of the 266 minute cut on blu-ray. Yes, the six hour cut from Portugese television is the most desirable of all, but at least the 266 trumps the even shorter version that was circulating in 2011. The film’s remarkable scope is fueled by overheated emotions, and the film’s melodrama spans three generations, and Ruiz was wise to reject the notion of condencing the riveting details and nuances that paint this rapturous mystery that eventually expands to connect with a universal whole. Ruiz implies that memories rediscover lost love in a film of exquisite craftsmanship and a deep elegiac and subversive underpinning. THE STRANGE CASE OF ANGELICA combines mystery, obssession and satiric humor, while telling a story with surrealist underpinnings, visualized in ravishing art house compositions that in and of themselves are impossible to divert from. There’s a touch of Bergman and Bunuel here, yet Oliveira is a unique talent whose hybrid approach is most original. This is his best film in years, and one that appeal equally to a number of genre fans.

Bravo for this stupendous post, so observant and well-written!

Sachin said...

Excellent comment Sam. I do remember that MYSTERIES was #2 on your list and something that you saw during the last week of 2011. I do plan to see the 6 hour version at some point though.