Discover more from (All (Parentheses))
Eccentricities of a Blond-Haired Girl
Time Out New York Project: Issue #775, August 5-11, 2010
Dir. Manoel de Oliveira. 2009. N/R. 64mins. In Portuguese, with subtitles. Ricardo Trêpa, Catarina Wallenstein, Leonor Silveira.
This incisive recent feature by cinema’s most well-known centenarian is as spry as its protagonist, Macário (Trêpa), who dances an impromptu jig after finding a way to approach the attractive blond girl he spies each day from his office window. She’s Luisa Vilaça (Wallenstein), in every way Macário’s feminine ideal, though we know there’s something about her — an eccentricity, or, per the original Portuguese title, a singularity — that’s driven him away since the details of their aborted love affair are being told to a stranger on a train (Silveira).
De Oliveira adapted the tale from a short story by realist author Eça de Queirós, though the film’s style is hardly vérité. Daytime jump-cuts into night, church bells peal an indeterminate hour, and the lead characters’ 19th-century mores are continually contrasted with bustling modern-day Lisbon. In De Oliveira’s world, time and space are infinitely malleable — the past is present and the present past. Luisa’s “singularity” would barely cause a blip nowadays, but here it’s shattering; there is nowhere for her to go once Macário finds her out. In the film’s striking penultimate shot, she slumps in a chair, becoming a sort of animate still life, rejected by her lover (and, by extension, society), yet forced indefinitely to endure.—Keith Uhlich