Only the very young or the very, very old could get away with the anodyne banalities* dutifully acclaimed in the films of that late centenarian Film Fest habitué Manoel de Oliveira. Like his previous ECCENTRICITIES OF A BLONDE-HAIRED GIRL/’09, it’s another Luis Buñuel manque pic about implausible/impossible love. This one about a substitute photographer tapped at the last minute to take a few final snaps of a rich & beautiful young bride who has unexpectedly died. Imagine the man’s surprise when he looks thru his view-finder and sees the dead girl open her eyes and offer an inviting smile. Instant soulmates! The pleasant young man soon withdraws into personal reverie, staring out doors & windows, hoping to see . . . what?; and generally creeping out everyone he comes in contact with. De Oliveira tries to give all this a hushed plausibility, with fitful touches of grace & humor. But he holds onto his compositions until they go visually dead. And while some whimsical ghostly encounters & unshowy visualized metaphors lend a touch of low-tech, Georges Méliès charm to things, you wade thru a lot of dead space (as well as paceless non-pro acting) to earn a few drams of dramatic recompense, along with a wet dream liebestod.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: The CinemaGuild DVD includes de Oliveira’s charming silent portrait of life along the Douros River (DOURO, FAINA FLUVIAL/’31), shown with its 1934 music track. Made in the tradition of late silent ‘City Portraits’ (Berlin’s PEOPLE ON SUNDAY/’30 is the best known), it’s a loose edit of various moments of work & play. Watch de Oliveira try for a bit of drama when a street accident causes an ox-driven cart to take off. His montage technique strains to recreate the action, but hasn’t the chops to pull it off. Still, the print looks lovely, and the sense of time & place strong.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Why not ‘Banal Anodynalities?’ Now, that’s got a ring to it!