Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Oporto of My Childhood (2001)

Memory piece by Portugese cinematic stalwart Manoel de Oliveira is lyrical in the most literal sense of the word: Much of de Oliveira's remembrances are expressed via songs, poems and other such examples of verse. (As if to drive home the point, the film opens with a backlit shot of an orchestra conductor doing his job.) It's a short and sweet thing, with some lovely filmmaking in evidence (there's a great shot which sees the young de Oliveira witnessing a nighttime drive by his chauffeur Lamas) and a graceful sense of the individual's place in the tides of history. It bogs down in the middle with de Oliveira's recounting of his entry into the Bohemian lifestyle, but it rallies at the end with some excellent recollections of the beginnings of Portugese cinema, which Manoel was around to witness. There's even a shoutout to the most famous of the Lumiere films, the origin of a nation's cinema thus being equated with the origin of all cinema. The voiceover narration, with the young de Oliveira occasionally correcting the current-day de Oliveira, also works quite well. It ultimately feels like a minor-key piece, an appetizer for a larger body of work; still, it has many nice moments, and I admit this has gotten me interested in the rest of Manoel's filmography.

Grade: B-


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