Saturday, September 05, 2009
I went to see Eccentricities of a Blonde-Haired Girl today, the latest film by the 100-year-old veteran Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira (and his third film in as many years). It's an adaptation of a short story by Eça de Queiroz, updated to the present day but Oliveira doesn't change much in the way of the social relations of 19th-century Lisbon. The etiquette of introductions, marriage requests and bourgeois townhouse gatherings are still there as is the unthinking cruelty of intransigent relations (in this case the uncle who sacks and disowns his accountant nephew because of his intention to marry the blonde of the title). It's ever so anachronistic but its ancient, retrograde elegance works, it even reminds one of Lisbon and its curious airs of the past, its creaking electricós and elevadors, its rent-controlled maze of small city-centre haberdashers, locksmiths and bookshops and its sleepy sense of dignified torpor. Though based on a story written by Quieroz its doomed clerk reminds one more of the work of Fernando Pessoa - both writers are referenced in the film - and there's one line uttered that is pure Pessoa: 'Businesses don't like sentimental accountants'. Manoel de Oliveira will be 101 in December and he's already got his next film, The Strange Case of Angelica in pre-production. There must be something in the water in Portugal.