The impoverished tenant of a Lisbon boarding-house, João de Deus (played to perfection by the writer/director) is one of the great miseries of the movies. He muses, in a dispassionate but doomy voice-over, on death, illness, solitude, and the bedbugs that make a nightly attack on his testicles. As the seedy, sexually frustrated, but occasionally kindly protagonist proceeds towards a pathetic, cracked assault on his harridan landlady’s daughter, it’s hard to know whether to laugh, weep or simply slit your wrists. In the end, it’s that wry, detached sense of comic absurdity that saves the film from plunging into maudlin miserabilism. Using long, often static takes, an elliptical narrative, and stark but stylish compositions, Monteiro sidesteps psychodrama to produce something altogether cooler, more thought-provoking, and more perverse. The film makes its slow way towards the appallingly run-down mental hospital of the title, and a denouement as fantastic as it is subversive. A fascinating, quietly caustic critique of the outmoded mores of Portugal’s petite bourgeoisie. —Time Out
João César Monteiro (1939-2003) was born in Figueira da Foz, a cosmopolitan beach resort in Portugal and moved to Lisbon at the age of 15 where he continued his studies.
João César Monteiro remains among the most indelible and unusual figures in the history of Portuguese cinema, a visionary and profoundly eccentric filmmaker whose unique contribution to postwar European film is only gradually being recognized today. A cosmopolite imagination tethered by a provincial attachment to Lisbon, a libertine with an obscurely puritanical streak, an unrelenting aesthete guided by an archaic spirit – Monteiro was a deliberately contradictory and difficult artist who obdurately resisted affiliation with any declared “school” of filmmaking. Monteiro dedicated himself instead to a mode of sublimely, and often perversely, high modernism fascinated by a rich undercurrent between the cinema and the other arts – especially poetry, painting, theater, literature and music. Like the films of his… read more
Michael Joshua Rowin for Artforum: "Though far less of a household name, João César Monteiro was for Portuguese cinema what Luis Buñuel was