Today I watched The Strange Case of Angelica. As a special feature on the DVD is his first film Douro, Faina Fluvial. Interesting to see two films from the same director some 8 decades apart.
Now this isn’t a thread about “holy christ he’s old” because yeah we all get it the man is still going strong, and who can’t tip his cap to that?
What I was wondering is if my indifference to every one of his films I’ve seen is somehow a sign of immaturity or is Oliveira somehow just considered a master director because after 8 decades no one has stopped him from making more movies?
Now I’ve only seen about 7 of his films so I’m hardly an expert, but the fact that none of them have impressed me makes me hesitant to keep watching more. So basically am I missing something or does anyone else feel the same passive indifference to Oliveira’s work?
It’s a sign of Immaturity.
What Oliveira films have you seen? I would rank ANGELICA highly in his body of work, but I could think of four or five of his movies (maybe more) that leave me very cold. There are certainly films that I would suggest one start with (VOYAGE TO THE BEGINNING OF THE WORLD; NO, OR THE VAIN GLORY OF COMMAND; INQUIETUDE; ABRAHAM’S VALLEY; or BENILDE OR THE VIRGIN MOTHER, for example) rather than others. Rosenbaum cites PORTO OF MY CHILDHOOD as the most accessible, which it may well be; DOOMED LOVE is probably his canonical masterpiece, if he has one.
In any case, Rosenbaum’s little primer on the director is pretty good, even if I highly disagree with his judgement on individual films:
I’ve seen A Talking Picture, I’m Going Home, Abraham Valley, Eccentricities of a Blonde Haired Girl, and the aforementioned (I think I’m forgetting one). I’ll take a look at the Rosenbaum article.
I have quite a number of his films at my disposal so my final opinion isn’t made up yet. Unfortunately my copy of No, or the Vainglory of Command doesn’t have English subtitles so I’ve put off watching that for now.
I noticed particularly in his last two features I saw that his actors have an incredibly unnatural performing style, almost like they’re on drugs or something. Not sure if that’s a Oliveira trademark or just something that’s developed more recently. I guess I’m just still waiting for that film of his to “wow” me.
I would say that the artificiality of Oliveira’s performances – I can’t think of a better word at the moment – is pretty consistent, although the exact nature of that artificiality tends to change depending on the film, and the context, such as the ‘filmed theater’ portions of INQUIETUDE and MON CAS. The way the characters sleepwalk through ECCENTRICITIES is strange even by his standards – note the bizarre eye-line of the woman on the train, ostensibly listening to the story, which never seems to waver throughout.
Certainly he doesn’t seem like the kind of director who wows anyone – as much as I love his movies I admit they do require a lot of patience and concentration, and a very specific mindset going in.
In any case, here’s an even better article on the director, by the great Victor Erice: