Portugal Cinema

By | January 13, 2022

According to top-mba-universities, the cinema in Portugal has characterized itself, since the seventies, on the eve of the Carnation Revolution, when the Centro português de cinema (CPC, an autonomous cooperative made up of eighteen directors) was formed, as an auteur cinema, path from experimentalisms and cultural references, with a refined structure, rigorous language, rarefied, literary, mystical and visionary atmospheres, but also crudely realistic and existential. Artistic freedom has often been protected with aid provided by the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian (one of the largest private foundations in the world). State funding has undergone various events: the Instituto português de cinema (IPC) was born in 1973 and leveraged the tax on tickets. The birth of a more commercial cinema was also made possible thanks to the transformations undergone by the IPC, which became in 1993 Instituto português da arte cinematografáfica and audiovisual (IPACA) and, in 1997, Instituto do cinema, audiovisual and multimédia (ICAM), therefore Instituto do cinema e do audiovisual (ICA). The financial sources corresponded to the different attitudes of the state towards cinema, in the aftermath of the closure of the independent co-operatives of authors (the CPC closed in 1978). On the one hand, auteur cinema has become institutionalized, on the other, enterprising producers who are attentive to artistic reasons have emerged (such as Paulo Branco or the company O Som ea Fúria). The interaction with the television system did its part, but, at the beginning of the new millennium,

Yet the generation of authors not only continued to be active, but was enriched with new talents and developed the production of documentaries (such as those, which work on the landscape and the imaginary, by João and Miguel Manso, Gonçalo Tocha, Salomé Lamas) and short films (such as the award-winning ones by João Salaviza), also following a new audiovisual law, finally implemented in 2012. Thus the new generations of Portuguese cinema have distinguished themselves in international festivals, during the first 2000s: João Pedro Rodrigues and Miguel Gomes were among the most singular representatives to emerge. The first with films that investigate multiple and transgressive sexualities: O fantasma (2000; Il fantasma), immersed in a surreal atmosphere, is the story of a gay garbage man who disguises himself at night in a black jumpsuit and a rubber mask, living a perverse and secret identity; Odete (2005), where the theme of the spectrum is taken up again in the melodramatic elaboration of the mourning of a girl following the accidental death of a homosexual boy she has never known, and which takes on distorted tones in identifying her with the missing boy and in the impossible meeting with his boyfriend; Morrer como um homem (2009), a ‘female’ story of a transsexual; and, paired with João Rui Guerra da Mata, the exotic and noir melodramas A última vez que vi Macau (2012) and Mahjong (2013).

The second with bizarre poetic-political films that invest Portuguese reality and memory with free associations between fiction, cinephilia and truth: A cara que mereces (2004), metaphor of a generational ‘shadow line’; Aquele querido mês de August (2008), suspended between invention and ethnography; Tabu (2012), a bizarre elegy of memory that traces the memory of the life of an elderly lady with homages to the cinema of Carl Theodor Dreyer and Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau; Redemption (2013), four fragments from different eras in the world, from the seventies to the 2000s, whose political-philosophical intent emerges from an experimental visual texture; and the complex three-part project As mil e uma noites (vol. 1: O restlessvol. 2: O Desolado, vol. 3: O Encantado, 2015), which tells the global crisis in the ways of the Thousand and One Nights.

The group of filmmakers from the New Portuguese Cinema, of the first and second generation, continued to make important works. Fernando Lopes (1935-2012) with O Delfim (2002), from the novel by José Cardoso Pires, Lá Fora (2004), 98 Octanas (2006), Os sorrisos do fate (2009), Em câmara lenta (2012), confirmed his existential poetics narrating the singular intertwining of destiny that involve his lonely and in crisis characters. João Mário Grilo reactivated the memory of a generation in A falha (2000) and made psychoanalytic melodramas with 451 Forte (2000) and Duas mulheres (2009). Pedro Costa with No Quattro da Vanda (2000; In Vanda’s room), Juventude em marcha (2006), Cavalo dinheiro (2014) explored in the form of a trilogy the desperate and tender humanity of drug addicts, in the suburbs of Lisbon, excavated by Caravaggesque lights of the room, and with Ne change rien (2009) he recounted his friendship with the singer and actress Jeanne Balibar like a filmed diary. Joaquim Sapinho made family melodramas with A mulher polícia (2003), the story of a mother who fights against institutions that want to take her child from her, and Deste lado da ressurreição (2011), on the bond between brother and sister that reveals mystical implications. João Canijo shot real ‘modern tragedies’ with the prison drama Ganhar a vida (2001), Noite escura (2004), on the slums of prostitution, Mal nascida (2007), a modern variation of the myth of Elettra, Sangue do meu sanguine (2011), É o Amor (2013), melodrama of a marine environment.

Teresa Villaverde has woven intense female portraits: Água e sal (2001), Transe (2006), Cisne (2011). João Botelho continued with his visionary, theatrical and sarcastic cinema with the romantic variation on the ‘Sebastianist’ myth (referring to Don Sebastiano, the king who dreamed of establishing a Portuguese empire in North Africa and who disappeared in 1578 in the battle by Alćazarquivir), based on the play Frei Luís de Sousa by Almeida Garrett, Quem és tu? (2001), the odd political satire of A mulher que acreditava ser Presidente dos Estados Unidos da América (2003), the adaptation by Denis Diderot O fatalista (2005) and Fernando Pessoa Filme do desassossego (2010), the sumptuous and novel A corte do Norte (2008) and Os maias (2014), from Eça de Queirós. Margarida Gil has continued to construct metaphorical fables that investigate the soul and female passions, or immerse themselves in the maze of memory, with Adriana (2004), Perdida mente (2010), Paixão(2012).

After years of absence, Vítor Gonçalves returned to shoot with A vida invisível (2013; The invisible life), the story of an employee looking for an unfinished and lost film, which hides a moving homage to the filmmaker Antonio Reis. Edgar Pêra’s experimental streak continued with many films suspended between documentary, fiction and surreal glimpses including A Janela (2001), Oito oito (2002), Rio Turvo (2007), O Barão (2011) and CineSapiens, episode in 3D by 3X3D (2013), in which Jean-Luc Godard and Peter Greenaway took part. The films of a great Portuguese cinema sound director like Joaquim Pinto have turned out to be very personal, and painful, self-portraits like E agora? Lembrame (2013), or contaminations between poetry, truth and testimony of life such as O Novo Testamento de Jesus Cristo segundo João (2013) and Fim de citação (2013), both with the participation of the great Portuguese theater and film actor, Luís Miguel Cintra, and shoot with Nuno Leonel.

A historical master like Paulo Rocha, who passed away in 2012, with A raiz do coração (2000), As sereias (2001), Vanitas (2004) composed a meditative and mysterious triptych on the Portuguese soul, before making a testamentary film, which retraces and reassembles his images, Se eu sia ladrão, roubava (2013). Extreme, mocking and poetic farewells from the world appear the last two films of another master, João César Monteiro, who died in 2003: Branca de neve (2000), a film that leaves the black screen, except for a few glimpses of a sky or a landscape snowy, while listening to the tale of Snow White in the ‘cruel’ version of the writer Robert Walser, and Vai e vem (2003), self-portrait on the streets of Lisbon and a very tender chronicle of his illness and his last loves.

But the master of the masters of Portuguese cinema, Manoel de Oliveira, who passed away in 2015 at the age of 106, proved to be the most tireless and prolific, with a series of great works, always vital and surprising: Palavra e utopia (2000; Word and utopia), Porto da minha infância (2001), Vou para casa (2001; Return home), O princípio da incerteza (2002; The principle of uncertainty), Um filme falado (2003; A spoken film), O quinto império – Ontem como hoje (2004; The fifth empire), Espelho mágico (2005; Specchio magico), Belle toujours (2006; Bella always), Christopher Columbus – The enigma (2007), Singularities of a young girl (2009; Singolarità di una ragazza bionda), The strange case of Angelica (2010; Lo strano caso di Angelica) , Panels of São Vicente da Fora – Poetic Vision (2010), O Gebo ea Sombra (2012; Gebo e l’ombra), Conquering Metropolis, Conquered (2012), O Velho do Restelo (2014), from which, as a whole, an imaginative fresco of Portuguese history and culture is obtained, seen as a universal and current metaphor of human destinies.

Portugal Cinema