Posts Tagged ‘Portuguese cinema’

Campo (2018) ***

Dir: Tiago Hespanha | Doc, Portugal 106′

At first a vast expanse of verdant pasture seems a bucolic paradise buzzing with bees, grazing sheep and deer. But appearances can be deceptive. Only a handful of people live here under strictly controlled conditions – for reasons that soon become obvious. At first Bees go on making honey and the lambing season also seems oblivious to the combative nature surrounding them. This is Alcochete, home to Europe’s largest military base, on the outskirts of Lisbon.

Clearly this place is not the rural idyll it appears to be. Quite to the contrary. Soldiers are  preparing for active combat:Bombs explode, shots ring out across the fields, and troops undergo mock incursions, often with fake blood. And their impact on the local environment gradually starts to take hold. Bees are dying, not in their hives, but because they cannot get back to them. Something in the atmosphere is adversely affecting their ability to navigate. Ironically, scientists have finding a way to create man-made bees who are capable of joining the war effort, and being used in combat missions. At the same time, a sheep is found dying, unable to give birth to her stillborn lamb. This is also seems counterintuitive to what nature originally intended when the gods looks down from the starry obsidian skies and created humanity in all its entirety.

Bringing his architectural sense of framing, lighting and visual awareness,  Hespanha directs a documentary feature with thematic concerns that feel atavistic yet totally contemporary in exploring the origins of the word ‘campo’. Often abstract and abstruse, Campo is nevertheless a spell-binding and often mundane film that contemplates the transcendental wonder of the universe and nature while also considering the baseness of man’s inhumanity towards his fellow man. Etymologically speaking ‘Campo’ is both a simple field (in Italian) and a perilous battlefield: the Campus Martius was an area of Rome dedicated to Mars, the God of War, who was parodoxically also the patron of agriculture. So this natural breeding ground where flora and fauna innocently thrive and procreate is also a place of warfare and death. MT

ON RELEASE FROM 1ST NOVEMBER 2019 |  PREMIERE Cinéma du Réel 15 – 24 MARCH 2019 | PARIS.

Sunburn *** BFI Flare 2019

Dir. Vicente Alves do Ó. Portugal. 2018. 82 mins

This sexually fluid and visually lush love-in has shades of François Ozon La Piscine to it- except Ozon’s sizzling storyline puts this tepid affair distinctly in the shade.

In the heat of a languid Portuguese summer four beautiful people are languishing in a fabulous villa, sunning themselves and salivating over the next meal. A phone-call disrupts their placid naval-gazing to announce an absent friend, now back in town will shortly pay them a visit. David’s call sends unnerving ripples through the tepid torpor. Clearly he has touched their lives in different ways. His imminent arrival now creates waves of tension in this becalmed backwater as they cogitate and speculate over the outcome.

Ricardo Barbosa plays Simao a beardy, pale-skinned script-writer prone to wearing skimpy white trunks. Vasco (Ricardo Pereira), a tanned adonis with striking come-to-bed eyes has unrequited romantic yearnings, while tousled-haired Francisco (Nuno Pardal) swings both ways with the bronzed and brooding Joana (Oceana Basílio), who is keen to have his child.

Their laconic exchanges over lunch are laced with nervous insinuations as the memories of David come silently back to haunt them. Cocktails on the terrace take a more sinister turn; their after dinner sambas seem more urgent, as distant sirens announce a far away fiasco in the cool of the night.

David’s imminent arrival casts a pall over their pleasure, both individual and collective, as they remember how he slighted them each in his own special way. Yet they seem to savour the betrayal and the hurtfulness it caused them, secretly fostering hopes for a positive reunion, why ruminating over his motives, as he talks to them, unspecifically, in voiceover.

At the end of the day, this is a story that sounds much more interesting than it actually ends up being on the big screen. These beautiful people feel strangely empty in the picture perfect place they inhabit, each possessing a curious lack of personality and certain, spontaneity. Sunburn is has a brilliant premise, poorly executed, a missed opportunity for the something really stunning. MT


The Baron (2011) O Barao *** | IFFR Rotterdam 2019

Dir: Edgar Pêra   Script: Luis Costa Gomes  Novel: Branquinho da Fonseca |Cast: Nuno Mela, Marcos Barbosa, Leonor Keil, Marina Albuquerque | 94mins   Portugal   Neuro-Gothic Horror

Dark, demonic and weirdly witty: Edgar Pera’s The Baron is an experiment in neuro-Gothic horror based on the novel by Branquinho da Fonseca and inspired by a film destroyed in the 1940s by the Fascist dictatorship under Salaza – who in the same amusing vein met his death falling off a deckchair.

Edgar Pêra shot the images and then apparently waited for the footage to lead his imagination into a world of ghastly horror surrounding a visit of a school inspector to the strange and beastlike Baron played masterfully by his longtime collaborator Nuno Melo whose hypnotic chant ‘Aqui Quem Manda Sou Eu’ (I’m the one in charge here) will haunt you, pavlonian-style long after the closing titles roll.

To Edgar Pêra sound is a vital element in his films: here in this low budget piece, the soundtrack is crucial in conjuring up a highly mystifying atmosphere to a simple storyline that echoes Mary Shelly’s Dracula. Pêra has Costa Gomes’s script to hand but uses it for reference only so the dialogue is largely improvised. The Baron himself is a Portuguese Nosferatu with Nuno Melo’s butch bone structure playing the leading role in contrast to Klaus Kinski shard-like talons and tombstone teeth. Rather than a hovering, tentative ghoul, he has a frighteningly dominatingly physicality and Kafkaesque presence and is clearly also a womaniser strangely under the thumb of his maid Idalina, played with succubus-like charm by Leonor Keil. If you do get a chance to see this one, grab it! MT

NOW SCREENING AT ROTTERDAM FILM FESTIVAL 2019| The Baron won the Gold Donkey at Rotterdam Film Festival 2011 













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