A history professor and her daughter take a bucolic cruise through the Mediterranean, acquiring first-hand-knowledge of and introducing her young girl to historical sites along their journey. During the voyage, they meet passengers of many nationalities and discuss the past and legacies of the West.
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A history professor takes her young daughter on a Mediterranean voyage giving context to her teachings as well as schooling her girl. A very assessable film from De Oliveira who's surface story is quite enjoyable but the understory is one that covers the power of language, cultural identity, history and legend. The film is pure conversation regardless of the 'tower of babel' the world has become. Fascinating work.
Part History lesson, part travelogue, the first part of this film is lovely if that stuff is enjoyable for you. Unfortunately, as soon as Malkovich enters this "Talking Picture" it becomes a real drag. The conversation is forced and contrived. Watch the first half if you want to see a beautifully shot travelogue. But turn it off as soon as you see Malkovich's ugly mug, that's what I think. 2 & 1/2 stars, not 3.
I read all of the reviews after watching this film in 2015. Anyone familiar with World Cinema knows the title is almost pejorative. It does not matter the point of view, the form rules the film. Today we know many films that end this way, a normal story, we want it to be normal, ends tragically. Like the news about the German plane crashing in the French Alps, normal stories end... I will miss Oliveira.
This is an idealistic conservative's plea for the preservation - and primacy - of Western Culture against the (unseen, almost hallucinated) violent, irrational forces that wish to destroy it. Most of the movie is taken up with badinage about the usual touchstones of Western Civ (France, Rome, Greece). It's in Egypt where the trouble begins, leading to a shock ending in the final minutes that comes out of nowhere.
"A devastatingly simple portrait of the ways in which we lull ourselves into believing that knowledge, academic or worldly, is our inviolate defense against annihilation." - Maria Garcia,
Film Journal International
A tepid, awkward travelogue interrupted by tepid, awkward dinner-table philosophy and put to rest by an awkward ending apparently intended to imbue the film with meaning through tragedy. The only success in the film was capturing John Malkovich's expression at the end of the movie and holding that one successful moment frozen through the credits.