April 2017, arsenal cinema

Manoel de Oliveira Retrospective

A CAIXA, 1994

Without a doubt, Manoel de Oliveira (1908–2015) is the most significant Portuguese director. He gained worldwide acclaim with his oeuvre. Until his death at the age of 106, he was the oldest filmmaker still making films. In 2014, he made a trailer for the "Viennale" festival. His work is wide-ranging and difficult to categorize. It is rooted in the worlds of literature and the theater, both ancient and modern. His films acquire another dimension through his treatment and a particular unique style. The viewer is distanced, suddenly new perspectives emerge, and the difference between reality and fiction comes into view. By exaggerating melodramatic elements, framing, or parallel plots, the narrative in Oliveira's films sometimes enters the surreal or becomes a parable, acquiring another level of reality. With all their complexity, Oliveira's films also often have a subtle satirical dimension, interwoven with a fine sense of irony and ambiguity. The director meditates on the ephemeral nature of love and relationships, he asks existential questions, and then he carries out expeditions through countries, continents and eras of history. His films break through the realism of narration, with actors looking into the camera or reciting texts instead of "acting". Thus Oliveira resembles Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet. On the other hand, in his composition of images he is related to Carl Theodor Dreyer and Robert Bresson. With his films often featuring in Arsenal's program and that of the International Forum, Oliveira was a frequent guest of ours. In 1980, our screening of a 16mm print of his film AMOR DE PERDIÇÃO (Ill-Fated Love) as the first film of the Forum had the effect of a thunderbolt. With its unusual length and strictly stylized narrative style, it left an unforgettable impression on viewers and even brought some of the most hardened critics to tears. The French critic Louis Marcorelles wrote that Oliveira had "an inimitable way of observing the world and the way people live, a heartbeat, momentum to the peaks." This could be applied to Oliveira's entire oeuvre.   We accompanied this oeuvre all the way and are therefore particularly pleased to present a comprehensive retrospective of Oliveira's works, a series of rarely screened masterpieces. The program will bring to light the depths and variety of the works and the unique signature of a great director.   We are very glad to welcome the head of the Cinemateca Portuguesa, José Manuel Costa, to Arsenal for the opening weekend. (ug)

PORTO DA MINHA INFÂNCIA (Porto of my Childhood, Portugal/France 2001, 8.4., Introduced by José Manuel Costa) When Porto was nominated European capital of culture, Oliveira made a film essay about his memories, bringing the city of his childhood back to life: the operas that he went to, the pastry shops where he would gladly have been forgotten all night, the dandies who fascinated him, and the bohemians, whom he would join when he got older. It is a melancholy tribute to the home of his childhood, which no longer existed in that same form and to cinema, which he first experienced and made in Porto. Staged scenes and documentary, photographs and images of the city today blur the past and the present.

VISITA OU MEMÓRIAS E CONFISSÕES (Visit or Memories and Confessions, Portugal 1982/2015, 8.4., the screening will be introduced by José Manuel Costa and followed by a discussion between him and Erika and Ulrich Gregor) At the age of 73, Oliveira was forced by financial constraints to sell the house that he had had built in Porto after his marriage in 1941 and in which he had lived for 40 years. At this turning point in his life, he decided to make an autobiographical film, but stipulated that it should only be screened after his death. Inspired by a text by Agustina Bessa-Luís, it features the director's own reflections about architecture, history and the house's spirit, as well as his memories of his childhood, his wife and children, actresses, the dictatorship and other subjects important to his life and oeuvre.

VALE ABRAÃO (Abraham's Valley, Portugal/France/Switzerland 1993, 9.4., Introduced by José Manuel Costa & 20.4.) In Oliveira's version of Gustave Flaubert's "Madame Bovary", the attractive Ema Cardeano Paiva marries a much older doctor and becomes part of Portugal's landed gentry. With her new life comes increasing loneliness, which she tries to combat with love affairs and (society) games. "The origin of Flaubert's Bovarysme somehow lies in women's pride. I see Ema pursuing a path of illusions - from the ascetic to the spiritual-intellectual. She frees herself from herself. She wants to climb higher and reach her goal through passion, charm or suffering. Ema is always in a state of desire." (Manoel de Oliveira)

ANIKI BÓBÓ (Portugal 1942, 10. & 23.4.) The film's title comes from a rhyme that the children of Porto recite to decide who will play the robber, who will be the cop. Oliveira's first feature film - for Georges Sadoul an independent anticipation of Italian neorealism - it tells of two poor boys' attempt to attract the gang's only female member. "What is striking about this 1942 film is how clearly it takes sides. I see two motifs: 1. The parents are deliberately eliminated from society. Adults only appear on their own, as exceptions. 2. The children experience adult dramas and also act like them."(Serge Daney)

ACTO DA PRIMAVERA (Rite of Spring, Portugal 1963, 12. & 25.4.) A hybrid film composed of documentary and fictional elements, which marks the beginning of radically modern filmmaking in Portugal: Every year, villagers from Curalha (Trás-os-Montes) perform the Passion during Holy Week in the open air, reciting a 16th-century text in traditional dialect. Contrary to his original intention to make a more conventional documentary about this local tradition, Oliveira re-enacted the performance of the Passion for his film and also integrated the shoot, the film team and scenes from everyday village life. There was also a contemporary element: An apocalyptic montage combined the death of Jesus with violent images of the Vietnam War.

A CAÇA (The Hunt, Portugal 1963, 12. & 25.4.) This allegorical short was inspired by a news item about two boys who were part of a hunting party and ended up in marshland. As one of them risked drowning, a group of helpers formed, but after a failed rescue attempt they began to argue and forgot the boy. The film was considered to be too pessimistic by the censors, who only allowed it to be released after Oliveira agreed to provide a positive ending. Since the end of the dictatorship, prints of the film have included both versions of the ending.

O PASSADO E O PRESENTE (Past and Present, Portugal 1972, 14. & 26.4.) The first part of Oliveira's Tetralogy of Frustrated Love is a comedy of errors from the underworld: Vanda remarries after her husband Ricardo dies in an accident. A year later, she is tired of her new husband, longing for Ricardo whom she despised when he was still alive. Firmino jumps out of the window and dies. At this moment, Ricardo's twin brother turns up and says that he is in fact Ricardo and that he changed his identity after his brother's death. The two become a couple again but soon their relationship is overshadowed by Vanda's memories of happy days with Firmino.

BENILDE OU A VIRGEM MÃE (Benilde or the Virgin Mother, Portugal 1975, 14. & 27.4.) The second part of the Tetralogy of Frustrated Love: Set in the 1930s, the film is about a young woman called Benilde who was brought up in a religious household. She lives with her father on a remote farm in Alentejo. He tries to protect her from the world. When - to everyone's surprise - it turns out that she is pregnant, she attributes this to god's influence. "In the extreme clarity of its composition, BENILDE is reminiscent of Dreyer's "Gertrud". If BENILDE is so moving, it is because the image never allows itself to judge and thus further intensifies the secret of the pregnancy; it never confirms or belies a point of view - that Benilde is lying or hysterical, as the doctor diagnoses, or that the child, as we - like the aunt - soon, perhaps too soon, assume, stems from the crazy man lost in the storm and howling at the door like a wolf, or that it stems from her cousin as he himself later claims, or is indeed a gift of god. (Yann Lardeau).

AMOR DE PERDIÇÃO (Ill-Fated Love, Portugal 1979, 15. & 28.4.) is a tragic love story set at the end of the 18th century. Simão, a student, and Teresa have to remain apart because their families are hostile to each other. Teresa is expected to marry her cousin Balthasar, but instead opts for the convent. Simão kills Balthasar and is given the option between prison and exile. For the third part of his Tetralogy of Frustrated Love, Oliveira created a purist form of literary adaptation and dispensed with any kind of realistic interpretation. He staged the eponymous novel by Camilo Castelo Branco frame by frame, with the actors looking at the camera head-on while reciting their texts.

FRANCISCA (Portugal 1981, 16. & 29.4.) The fourth part of the Tetralogy of Frustrated Love is set in the mid-19th century: The writer Camilo Castelo Branco and his friend José Augusto Branco fall in love in the sisters Fanny und Maria Owen. Even though José Augusto prefers Maria, he seduces and marries Fanny. The marriage is not consummated, however, because he doubts her virginity. With this work, Oliveira "positions himself in a line with Straub, Bresson, Dreyer: minimal art of long, perspective takes, theatrical sets, epic segmentation of the narrative material and exact calculations when arranging the picture and positioning and moving the camera, and incredible precision with regard to the use of music." (Wolfram Schütte)

In "NON", OU A VÃ GLÓRIA DE MANDAR (No, or the Vain Glory of Command, Portugal/Spain/France 1990, 13. & 18.4.), which is set during the Portuguese Colonial War (1961 - 1974), Lieutenant Cabrita, a historian in civilian life, makes his way through the African jungle, summarizing Portuguese history and its turning points for his fellow soldiers, many of whom doubt their mission. On the basis of five exemplary episodes, the film develops a very personal philosophy of history about placidness and abstinence.

O DIA DO DESESPERO (The Day of Despair, Portugal/France 1992, 17. & 29.4.) is a tribute to the Portuguese writer Camilo Castelo Branco, whose novel "Amor de Perdição" Oliveira adapted in 1978. The title refers to the day in 1890 on which Camilo committed suicide, having being told that his eye disease could not be cured. Based on his letters, the film tells of the final years of a man who was both polemical and romantic and afflicted by constant inner conflicts. "It is a drama in search of people as Fernando Pessoa would have said." (Manoel de Oliveira)

A CAIXA (Blind Man's Buff, Portugal/France 1994, 11. & 21.4.) is a poetic parable inspired by the eponymous play by Prista Monteiro, which alternates between tragedy and farce. Taking place on the outdoor steps of a poor district in Lisbon, it tells of a poor blind man who is the object of envy because the tin that he uses to beg has been officially approved. When it is stolen, everyone suspects everyone else. There is all the more confusion when another blind man turns up with a tin. "A CAIXA could be called a portrait of humanity, which is depicted via a group of poor people living on the margins of society, not to say forgotten." (Manoel de Oliveira)

VIAGEM AO PRINCÍPIO DO MUNDO (Voyage to the Beginning of the World, Portugal/France 1997, 21. & 30.4.) An aging pioneer of Portuguese cinema (Marcello Mastroianni), an actor of Portuguese descent (Jean-Yves Gautier) and two other people involved with the cinema travel by car from France to northern Portugal to shoot a film. While the director returns to his hometown, which has little to do with that of his transfigured memories, the actor sees the places his father told him about for the first time. It is a film about memories, with Marcello Mastroianni in his final role starring as the director's alter ego and the director himself playing his chauffeur.

JE RENTRE À LA MAISON / VOU PARA CASA (I'm Going Home, Portugal/France 2001, 22. & 24.4.) An ageing stage actor (Michel Piccoli) who lives in Paris and is forced to look after his eight-year-old grandson after his entire family dies in an accident, has to come to terms that his career (and life) is coming to an end - he receives fewer theater roles and is offered a TV role that has little to do with culture. When he forgets his text for John Malkovich's film adaptation of "Ulysees", he decides to go home. His role in life is alienated by his role as an actor and vice versa. A moving film.

SINGULARIDADES DE UMA RAPARIGA LOURA (Eccentricities of a Blonde-Haired Girl, Portugal/Spain/France 2009, 19. & 23.4.) A young accountant from Lisbon falls in love with a blonde woman from his neighborhood. They decide to get married as soon as possible. When they go to buy wedding rings, it turns out that the woman is a thief. Their plans are shattered. The main protagonist narrates this tragic story to an older woman on the train with him. "Set in the 19th century, this story of the vain efforts of the accountant Macário to acquire the hand of the beautiful Luísa Vilaça, who waves her fan so captivatingly, was transposed to the here and now by de Oliveira because money as a sexual fetish is not linked with any one historical period but inherent to capitalism. It is a film that can be seen as quirkily Hitchcockian, something between Vertigo and Marnie."(Rui Hortênsio da Silva e Costa)

O ESTRANHO CASO DE ANGÉLICA (The Strange Case of Angelica, Portugal/Spain/France/Brazil 2010, 19. & 22.4.) At the age of 101, Manoel de Oliveira made a film from a script that he had started writing almost 60 years before. In the middle of the night, a young photographer named Isaac, is called to take a last picture of the deceased daughter of a wealthy family who died just days after her wedding. The photo session is like a séance. When Isaac looks through the lens, the dead woman suddenly opens her eyes and smiles at him. He cannot forget this mysterious event and becomes obsessed with the idea that Angélica could rise from the dead. "Oliveira films a fable that would suit a mystery thriller with his own precise economy. He has a wonderful eye for surreal anomalies, which lend the film a gentle, ethereal atmosphere without completely removing the levels of reality. In the Douro vineyards, the workers with their rakes suddenly seem like gravediggers, a beggar also awakens morbid associations." (Dominik Kamalzadeh)

In cooperation with Cinemateca Portuguesa, with the kind support of the Portuguese Embassy, Camões-Instituto da Cooperação e da Língua and ICA (Instituto do Cinema e do Audiovisual).

April '17
arsenal cinema: Manoel de Oliveira Retrospective

07:00 pm Cinema 1


Singularidades de uma Rapariga Loura

Singularidades de uma Rapariga Loura
Eccentricities of a Blonde-Haired Girl
Portugal/Spain/France 2009 With Ricardo Trêpa
35 mm OV/GeS 63 min

arsenal cinema: Magical History Tour – No mans lands, parallel societies and half worlds in film

08:00 pm Cinema 2


Krótki film o zabijaniu

*Krótki film o zabijaniu A Short Film About Killing
Krzysztof Kieślowski Poland 1988
35 mm OV/GeS 84 min

arsenal cinema: Manoel de Oliveira Retrospective

08:30 pm Cinema 1


O Estranho Caso de Angélica

O Estranho Caso de Angélica
The Strange Case of Angelica
Portugal/Spain/France/Brazil 2010
35 mm OV/EnS 96 min