Someone asked me:
- Cinema, cinema, cinema! Why cinema?
Then, I started to explore the real meaning of it…
In Portugal, a film is treated more as a product of entertainment (mostly from USA) and not as an art.
People don’t want to think anymore, for them (for example) a Tarkovsky film may find itself boring in this land of stupidity and ignorance…
Gradually, from generation to generation, what people knew as art – even national art – became something confuse and self-righteous…
Pedro Costa, one of the few internationally know Portuguese directors, has his Fontaínhas trilogy released in a DVD-boxset in United States by the Criterion Collection. In Portugal just the first feature-film of the trilogy (Ossos) saw a DVD release.
I’m not saying that people must like Pedro Costa’s filmography, but people mustn’t deny its national product… the good and the bad things. It is not fair to our cinema, not even for our culture and tradition. Not even for art itself.
I’m not talking about what cinema was or what it is now… I’m talking about what cinema will become.
For further reading:International Film Guide: PortugalNationally Correct: The Invention of Portuguese Cinema
I’m sorry about my poor English.
Portugal is hardly alone in treating film as a product of entertainment, mainly US. Sadly, and many of us here wish things were otherwise. Good to hear Costa is getting some coverage, Oliveira hasn’t had enough, like Portuguese cinema as a whole he’s still shamefully neglected.
Thanks for the reading links
Thanks for the links Bruno.
When talking about Portuguese Cinema and the dichotomy between art and industry, it is inevitable to mention the figure of Paolo Branco. Bruno, What do you think of him, or some others like him, who support art-house films in Portugal?.
Someone like Branco, who has supported Manoel de Oliveira, Pedro Costa, Raúl Ruiz portuguese films, etc, is always looking for artistic values and aesthetic challenges. There’s a whole new bunch of filmmakers in Portugal right now. So it means that they find private funding with similar producers, in spite of results in box office.
I’m curious.. why do you say people mustn’t deny Pedro Costa’s filmography as a national product? Is it there any anti-Costa writing, movement or critic in Portugal? Is it because of “national identity” representation or aesthetics, or both?
Oh, Kenji, I’d like to know what do you think too
Yes, I am very proud of Paulo Branco. Paulo is one of the few people that supports art-house films and respects the decisions of the directors.
As for the results in box office… Paulo doesn’t produce “commercial” cinema. So that kind of films is supported by subsidies of our government investment fund, called FICA. Well, that subsidies aren’t very small, so the films also have the support of television networks.
Once again, most of that television networks aren’t culture-friendly, so it’s obvious what kind of films they support:
Generally those that imitate American (the most influential product in our market) crime to our reality. You must notice that those films I’m referring aren’t even available at MUBI’s database.
I talk about ‘product’ and ‘market’ because the cinematic product (DVD, etc), like Tarkovsky once said, is sold like cigarettes. Cinema involves money, one way or another.
What I’ve said about Costa was for the public, not the critics of the media. The public, the people from Portugal, gradually we’re underrate our culture and art.. not just Costa’s cinema, or our cinema.
Talking to the media is like talking to a wall. But I won’t talk about it now, it be like a conspiracy theory.
In fact, we’re just proud of ourselves in soccer cups. Soccer is the only thing that people look to like. Maybe we’re not ready for culture yet, and we know that.
Well, i’m no expert on Portuguese films, far from it, cos so many are unavailable and unseen outside Portugal. And that is the problem, a marvellous country pushed to the margins, and already geographically on the edge of Europe- not just in cinema but culturally in general; Pessoa, Saramago (even with Nobel prize), Amalia aren’t as famous as they should be. Money talks, and Hollywood has the power and money; so many countries don’t know or properly appreciate their own cinema
There’s also the issue of pacing and how audiences have been conditioned- some Portuguese i’ve spoken to about Oliveira say he’s too slow. Of course Aniki Bobo isn’t too slow or arty either.
That’s true. The media also doesn’t promote what they should. Only the famous things (bad or good) are promoted. So Costa is a stranger.
Just one thing I remembered.. Manoel de Oliveira is very very famous here, maybe so famous as Steven Spielberg. But people use to see Spielberg’s movies, but rarely they see an Oliveira film, because “it’s boring”.
Our television and theaters almost just run “commercial films”, its rare to see a Costa film on tv, but it’s not impossible. The fact is that even when auteur cinema is broadcasted, its only after midnight.
I’m sorry about my English.
Yes, I’m afraid the same could be said for many countries. Even in South Korea, a country in which Tony Rayns has commented as having one of the strongest cinephile cultures in the world (he said that in the 90s so I may be taking it out of context a bit), auteurist films of Hong and Lee are consistently overlooked. You won’t find many people there who like Hong over Bong or Lee over Kim Jeeyoon/Park Chanwook. So I completely understand your feeling, Bruno, which is why I think that clip is so great – Tarkovsky understood more than most how intrepid one must be to pursue true art.
Your English is fine! Yes, that’s my impression, the Portuguese know Oliveira from his international reputation, importance in Portuguese cinema and his incredible longevity, but many don’t really know his films very well.
The other thing is these days people worldwide often don’t know older films either- yesterday i met 3 Czechs in their mid-30s who were playing tennis and they didn’t know the great Czech films of the 60s.
Oh that’s something that happens here.. our past is being buried.
The only “old name” that the Portuguese know is Manoel de Oliveira, and as you said, it’s just because of his international reputation and longevity.
I don’t have nothing against America, there’s cinematic masterpieces born from there, but Portugal as well as some other countries should really appreciate our things too. We’re almost being dominated, and I’m very young so I notice this with the people around me.
But in every rule there’s an exception. There are beautiful Portuguese films well received here by the public and the critics, like for instance Aquele Querido Mês de Agosto, by Miguel Gomes.
Bruno, that’s also a problem of my beloved/ hated Brazil. I believe it’s not affecting our countries only, but the whole world.
…E eu inglês está bom, como disse Kenji! Não se preocupe. ;)
This is what the government subsidies, for the people…
…and this is what I said about imitating the American cinema:
That’s a problem that affects the whole world nowadays, not only Portugal, USA, or Brazil..
I don’t know about everyone else, but I really like Sandro Aguilar’s work, specially A Zona. Sandro haves some kind of special gift to combine images and sound and make them speak. I also enjoyed Miguel Gomes’ Canticle of all creatures. Portuguese cinema haves a lot to give, unfortunately it’s not widely distributed.
Oh it’s also my belove/hated Brazil xD
yes.. that’s something that is happening there for a long time, like here Portugal. But the difference is the quality of their cinema comparing to ours. They can make a good commercial film sell, we only can make a bad film sell.
I don’t know if I’m telling the things the right way, but the problem its the Portuguese mind.
Everyone is capable to do wonderful things if we believe so. And that’s the problem. I’m not just talking about cinema, but also in music, art and national culture itself.
Its a shame to tell you this, but I only knew A Zona when I explored portuguese films on MUBI.
The Portuguese don’t promote their cinema! I’ve never heard about him before, that’s absurd!
This one was well received in the DVD market:
I usually don’t follow modern, commercial Brazilian releases like Jean Charles or My Name isn’t Johnny, but at least Elite Squad and City of God have been some disappointments to me. I can’t say that about modern Portuguese cinema, since my first – and so far only – contact with Portuguese films has been Manoel de Oliveira, and what a master! That’s cinema!
For example, here in Colombia, I could say that almost everybody knows García Márquez world importance as a writer. However, most of the people haven’t even read one of his 3 page or less, short tales. People repeat some other’s opinion or slogan, but usually don’t want to make their own.
Critics are important because of their role as bridges between works of art and the public. If critics only exist to be at the service of hegemonic interests, then audiences will never have the invitation or the guidance to experiment another phenomena by themselves. Mass culture teaches audiences to appreciate things, based on fallacies, sophisms and prejudices on art, artists and aesthetics canons.
Critics are the bridge. Why does they take too long to reappear into the world of film again?
I truly agree with you Cedric!
I criticize the situation in my country and the situation of my people, because I was on the other side, I was once a lover of other type of “films” when I was younger. But I grew up, and my interest for real cinema grew up, and my interest for my country’s culture also grew.
So I started comprehend Oliveira’s cinema. And I made myself this question: “Why don’t we like our art?”
Javier, what you said is very true. Critics have influence in people’s choices, for good or for bad. But it helps, because people usually need guidance, need to follow something in order to do it.
You reminded me of José Saramago. He was famous because he once won a Nobel prize. People here we’re divided about him… some always will criticize his writing method, some will always remember as one of the greatest names the our literature. The fact is that his book are very hard to read, and everybody here does exactly what Colombian people do there, as you say.
His last book Cain was a hard and ironic critic to the bible, and he was again polemic as we was before with The Gospel According to Jesus Christ. He was criticized by the people and the Chuch.
When he died, this year, no one was criticizing him anymore and there where made very homages in his name. Although his books are still hard to read.
“Why don’t we like our art?”
I ask myself this question sometimes too. When I say I adore my country’s cinema – even if I have seen just a handful of films – people say, “Oh, it’s so boring”, or “There’s nothing good in Brazilian cinema”. Some three years ago, I’d agree with these statements. That was before Ruy Guerra, Khouri, Hirszman, dos Santos, João Batista de Andrade, Peixoto and Diegues. I’m fascinated by it now, whenever there’s a cult or older Brazilian film being broadcasted, I try to watch it. I’m also in love with my country’s literature, and also Portugal’s. Am I the only one in my school?
Portugal has profound educational problems that deeply affect the way people perceive art (cinema included). I’m Portuguese and I must say that our schools haven’t yet understood the importance of, at least, a basic artistic education. To me, learning about the great writers, painters, composers and directors is as important as studying maths or geography.
At home most parents don’t even make an effort to put their children in contact with forms of artistic expression. Artistically I’m a self-educated person. I’d love to have more people to share my thoughts in my community. But here in Portugal we float between people who think art is for intellectuals and the so called artists that think art is for pro-communist people who like to quote french authors just for the panache that has.
Our cinema relies on an absurd system of governmental funding. The jurors who choose which films will or won’t be produced are more interested in protecting their friends than actually working towards helping new and refreshing filmmakers. Their sole purpose is to maintain the status quo and, with that, suffocate any chance of creating a small but lively portuguese film production.
Cedric, you’re from Brazil?
What do you think of Glauber Rocha’s films, by the way?
I’m not a television-friend, but when I know that a art-house film is being broadcasted, I try to see it too. The thing is: Just our public broadcasting network RTP, propagate this kind of cinema. And it’s not an everyday broadcasting.
What Carlos said completes what I was trying to explain.
Obrigado Carlos! :)
This is the real situation.
That’s interesting Carlos. I always figured that Portugal was quite into the arts? At least that’s the impression i was given. i’ve read it’s a ‘less coked up version of Spain, more arty and intellectual’, but from your perception it doesn’t seem that way at all!
anyway, Pedro Costa is quickly becoming one of my favourite modern directors.
Joks, Spain is way more arty and intellectual than us.. at least from my perspective. ahah
Pedro Costa is like a hero to me. Is an honor to have an artist like him in my country, it’s a shame the poor recognition he has here .
The Portuguese must be more intellectually advanced- they’re better at Spanish than the Spanish are at Portuguese. Just don’t mention the world cup; well, Spain may have won but in 66 Portugal were the most exciting team of the tournament and Spain has never matched Eusebio. Painting, well, Spain has the edge, but for singing noone can match Amalia. And how about the fantastic carnation revolution and the great discoverers?
Portugal has never won the Eurovision song contest; this is a sure sign of cultural superiority. But it has had the only Eurovision song to start a revolution
And Portuguese women are the most beautiful in the world
It’s a Portuguese tradition to have our artists recognized and awarded abroad and disrespected at home. Sadly our society only remembers them after they die.
Above all other art forms we have great writers, among the best worldwide. I think that occurs because it’s a logistically “cheap” art form, one that only demands a pen and paper for the creativity to be expressed. On the other hand cinema has a basic technical aspect (cameras, sets, etc) that is quite expensive and makes it hard for emerging artists to go forth with their works.
One thing that worries me though is the fact that we have few low budget films being made. We see great filmmakers appearing in the international film scene with works budgeted in just a few thousand dollars. I’m still waiting to see the Portuguese “Eraserhead” or “Pi”.
Also important is the fact that the theaters here aren’t very interested in promoting national films (at least showing them for more than 1 week). The only box-office hits in Portugal were films marketed through their sex scenes. If you want to make a successful film here you have to make a teaser with a beauty queen showing her tits. Otherwise you’re condemned to oblivion.
KENJ: hehehe!eurovision comments. i only know of 4 musical artists from Portugal: Amalia Rodrigeus, Antonio Chainho, Mariza, and goth metal band Moonspell :-)
Those are very nice words about Portugal, and the funny thing is that they’re true!
In case anyone’s not familiar with the events of 74, Paulo de Carvalho’s Eurovision entry E Depois do Adeus was one of the 2 signals for the carnation revolution that overthrew the dictatorship.
Rosa Mota, now she was a long distance runner i really admired
why has no one mentioned João César Monteiro yet? do the Portuguese not like him?