Dir.: Joao Pedro Rodriguez, Joao Rui Guerra Da Mata; Cast: Isabel Ruth; Portugal/France 2022; 88 min.
Portuguese filmmakers Joao Pedro Rodriguez and Joao Guerra Da Mata – best known for their memorable titles The Last Time I saw Macao and The Ornithologist – one again join forces to research locations for Paulo Rocha’s The Green Years which heralded Portugal’s Cinema Novo in the early 1960s.
After a promising start the directors lose their audience – to a certain degree – by assuming that everyone has an in-depth knowledge of the Rocha film and the intricacies of Lisbon’s geography and history, both prerequisites for really appreciating their latest offering.
Isabel Ruth, who played the female lead of Illda in Rocha’s 1963 drama, returns to the locations with the same passionate energy, singing and dancing throughout. The director’s grandfather designed the modernist home where Da Mata and Rodriguez reflect on Rocha shooting scenes with Julio and Illda holding hands for the first time in the rolling landscape of a nearby park which provides the setting for this languorous if reductive love letter to Lisbon.
DoPs Rui Pocas and Lisa Persson capture the essence of the place with lingering long shots. Time has moved on but the derelict buildings, now fallen into disrepair, are redolent of the glory days. Shot between 2019 and 2021 and spilling into the pandemic; public radio announcements warn of the dangers requiring the wearing of masks.
Breath-taking images of an iron bridge and a tower are certainly impressive – and we wait, in vain, for connections to the Rocha film. Instead, we get shots of deserted offices and flats. To drive the message home a placard No 215 bills the Green Years, but then no action follows for No 171 of the current documentary. At the end, Ruth dashes on to the street, singing and dancing, four cars encircling her like as if closing in on their prey. Overall, for any outsider, Where is this Street feels rather disappointing. A tempting taste of the past that could have offered so much more. AS
NOW SCREENING AT LONDON’S ICA | SPECIAL JURY AWARD | INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY STRAND | Turin International Film Festival 2022