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Manoel de Oliveira: Talking Pictures

August 9, 2008 - September 28, 2008

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Abraham’s Valley, September 28

It’s not often that we can celebrate the centennial of a director who is not only still living, but still working. Such is the case with Manoel de Oliveira. We have called Oliveira the “dean” of Portuguese cinema, but Portugal could never lay sole claim to him: like Luis Buñuel and Raul Ruiz, he is a major European film stylist. He belongs to cinema. Uncompromising, resolutely individualistic, his rich and rigorous style is at once passionate and austere, intensely artificial in a manner influenced by Japanese theater. That said, and it is said often, the grace and wit with which he weaves philosophy, literature, theater, opera, and storytelling into something intensely visual is purely cinematic in a way that negates all those forms. Again, he belongs to cinema.

Oliveira’s career is itself a story: having begun in 1929 making poetic documentaries, he remained essentially an amateur filmmaker; blacklisted during the 1940s and fifties, he only managed two features before 1970. Then, from his late sixties, he just didn’t stop, and over half of his films were made when he was over the age of eighty. Our series spanning August and September includes, in August, the lyrical, Jean Vigo–influenced Aniki-Bóbó from 1942, and the magnificent “Tetralogy of Frustrated Love” from the 1970s: The Past and the Present; Benilde, or the Virgin Mother; Doomed Love; and Francisca, the film many consider to be his masterpiece from that era.

Saturday, August 9, 2008
6:30 p.m. Voyage to the Beginning of the World
A film director (Marcello Mastroianni in his last role) tours the Portuguese countryside in this “exquisitely sad and moving reflection on memory and personal roots.”—N.Y. Times

Sunday, August 10, 2008
5:00 p.m. Aniki Bóbó
Oliveira’s 1945 debut feature prefigured neorealism with a child’s-eye view of Porto, the director’s hometown. With short The Hunt.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008
7:30 p.m. Rite of Spring
A rural Portuguese town’s passion play forms the center of Oliveira’s prescient mix of documentary, fiction, and re-enactments that “takes on a strange, ancient, hieratic force.”—Sight & Sound

Saturday, August 16, 2008
6:30 p.m. The Past and the Present
Oliveira’s deliciously Buñuelian satire of the backstabbing rich chronicles a disastrous mansion party. “A caustic comedy.”—NFT, London

Saturday, August 16, 2008
8:45 p.m. Benilde, or the Virgin Mother
A young girl’s pregnancy may be truly “divine” in Oliveira’s Dreyer-by-way-of-Sirk dissection of Portuguese propriety and religious hypocrisies.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008
7:30 p.m. My Case
An intruder interrupts a play with his own monologue in Oliveira’s Pirandellian assault on the fourth wall. “Nothing other than a great, stylistically opened metaphor for man’s entrance upon the world’s stage.”—Berlin Film Festival

Sunday, August 24, 2008
3:00 p.m. Doomed Love
Young lovers are separated by family feuds and aristocratic mores in Oliveira’s update of a classic 1861 novel. “A minuet staged as grand opera.”—Village Voice

Wednesday, August 27, 2008
7:30 p.m. Short Films by Manoel de Oliveira
This program of earlier poetic works by the great director includes his first film, Douro, Working River, a 1931 silent classic. Also The Painter and the City; Bread.

Sunday, August 31, 2008
4:00 p.m. Francisca
Two men become infatuated with an Englishwoman in Oliveira’s masterpiece of frustrated love. “As if Straub had collaborated with Ophuls.”—Dave Kehr

Wednesday, September 3, 2008
7:00 p.m. The Cannibals
A lovely maiden falls in love with an upper-class gentleman—but discovers his body is entirely mechanical—in Oliveira’s surreal musical collaboration with the Lisbon Opera House. “Perhaps the only genuine opera film to date.”—Toronto Film Festival

Sunday, September 7, 2008
4:00 p.m. Day of Despair
Dramatization of the last days of Portugal’s famous 19th-century novelist Camilo Castelo Branco. “Cool, stylized, and elegant.”—London Film Festival

Wednesday, September 10, 2008
7:00 p.m. Non, or the Vain Glory of Command
Portuguese soldiers in 1973 Angola discuss the history of combat in Oliveira’s theoretical treatise on war, destiny, and colonialism. An Apocalypse Now of philosophical ideals.

Sunday, September 14, 2008
5:00 p.m. Anxiety
Three stories are combined into one in Oliveira’s fascinating examination of death and immortality, filmed in Portugal and Madrid. “A masterpiece with irreverent wit, ironic bite, and anger.”—Jonathan Rosenbaum

Wednesday, September 17, 2008
7:00 p.m. The Divine Comedy
Mental asylum inmates take on the personas of Jesus, Raskolnikov, and Adam and Eve in this imaginative combination of cinema, philosophy, and literature. With Maria de Medeiros.

Saturday, September 20, 2008
8:00 p.m. I’m Going Home
An actor (Michel Piccoli) adjusts to the tragic death of his wife and son in this leisurely paean to everyday beauty. Costarring Catherine Deneuve and John Malkovich.

Sunday, September 21, 2008
3:30 p.m. Christopher Columbus: The Enigma
Oliveira’s most recent film finds an amateur historian attempting to prove Columbus’s Portuguese roots. A fascinating essay on history, nationalism, and the quest for discovery.

Sunday, September 21, 2008
5:00 p.m. A Talking Picture
Oliveira offers an appreciation of the birth of Western civilization to contemplate its demise in this “sharply cut gem of a film” (N.Y. Times) with Catherine Deneuve, Stefania Sandrelli, and Irene Papas.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008
6:30 p.m. Belle Toujours
Michel Piccoli returns in Oliveira’s intriguing “sequel” to Buñuel’s Belle de Jour, with Bulle Ogier essaying the Deneuve role. A tribute to Buñuel, eroticism, and unsolved enigmas.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008
8:00 p.m. Belle de Jour
Catherine Deneuve is a frigid housewife who indulges her masochistic desires by working in a Paris brothel. A subversive erotic classic from Luis Buñuel.

Sunday, September 28, 2008
3:30 p.m. Abraham’s Valley
The gorgeous northern Portuguese coast provides the setting for Oliveira’s reimagining of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. “As engrossing as a rich 19th-century novel.”—Variety

Manoel de Oliveira: Talking Pictures is organized by Florence Almozini and Adrienne Mancia, BAMcinématek, with the collaboration of Antonio Pedroso, Tour and Program Liaison, Portugal. It is coordinated at PFA by Kathy Geritz.

PFA wishes to thank the following institutions and individuals for making this series possible: João Bénard Da Costa, Cinemateca Portuguesa-Museu do Cinema; José Pedro Ribeiro and Filomena Serra Pereira; Instituto do Cinema e Audiovisual (ICA); Simonetta Luz Afonso and Rita Sá Marques, Instituto Camões; Antunes João, Nuno Gonçalves, and Fernando J. Santos, Lusomundo Audiovisuais; Turismo de Portugal; Manuel da Silva Pereira, The Embassy of Portugal, Washington, DC; Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Portuguese Studies Program/Institute of European Studies, UC Berkeley; and Randal Johnson, UCLA.