Dir: Susana Nobre | Cast: Joaquim Calcada | Portugal, 87′
Portuguese director Susana Nobre won the prestigious La Femis Scholars’ Award with her short film Provas, Exorcismos. She comes to Berlin with her unusual first feature No Táxi do Jack which is part road movie part ethnological portrait of small-town rural Portugal but there’s a sting in the tale to the concentric narrative.
Jack’s Ride seems quite straightforward at first as we follow the main character Joaquim Calçada, 63, now semi-retired and back home in his village after spending his working life as a taxi driver New York. Joaquim’s day is full of the usual chores, organising his pension arrangements and shopping for food. Nobre establishes the milieu of this rural backwater with its industrial outcrop and traditional neighbourly values, more 1970s in feel than the present day, and this is reflected in the film’s rather florid visual aesthetic, Joaquim is locked in a time warp looking like a character from Scorsese’s Taxi Driver with his dyed black hair, leather jacket and lifts. That said he is a decent, respectful man who cares for his wife, his long-dead parents, and his blind friend, a wheelchair user with diabetes. Nobre paints a portrait of a contented but rather backward place where traditional values still matter.
The rather mundane daily drama plays out against the more intriguing narration by Joaquim – and here there is a dramatic trip over New York’s skyline, provided by archive footage, as he reminisces about his old emigrant days in New York’s mean streets where life was tough as he struggled to make it in the urban jungle, particularly when the law of the jungle saw him challenging someone he thought was his friend. MT
BERLINALE | FORUM 2021