Manoel de Oliveira is a Portuguese film director who made his first feature film at age 63, and will be celebrating his 100th birthday on December 12 of this year. He has made eight or nine full length films, two of which were shown yesterday afternoon at the National Gallery of Art. His most recent film (last year) is being shown at 4 this afternoon; I may go, because it is a story of someone searching for the truth of the birth of Christopher Columbus – was he really Portuguese?
Yesterday’s two films were both French language, not Portuguese. One starred Marcello Mastroianni in his last role; the other starred Chiara Mastroianni, the daughter of Marcello and Catherine Deneuve. Marcello’s film was his last; he died shortly after making Journey to the Beginning of the World, the story of an aging Paris based director, and three actors, traveling through Portugal, visiting places important to the director in his youth, and meeting the aunt of one of the three actors, also of Portuguese descent (but who had never before been to Portugal). Chiara’s film, The Letter, is a transposition of the 17 century French novel, The Princess of Cleves, to modern times.
Both films were very slow moving. Both were beautifully photographed. Each lacked any semblance of action. Both were intellectually engaging.
There are certainly reasons to see these movies, but you don’t want to see them on a day when you are either restless or tired.