Abraham Valley- Portuguese masterpiece

Discussion in 'Movies' started by john davies, Dec 1, 2003.

  1. john davies

    john davies Stunt Coordinator

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    I've just seen for the 3rd time this loose, referential 1993 transposition of Madame Bovary to Portugal's lovely Douro valley, by the now nonagenarian (and still amazingly prolific) director Manoel de Oliveira. Though the initial magical relish of finding unexpected treasure can never be recaptured, i'm as convinced as ever that it's a unique and formidable masterpiece. Its 3 hour length, languorous pacing, sometimes pretentious conversations and often snobbish or unlikeable characters won't be for all tastes, but.. it has a supreme elegance, subtle irony and dry wit, outstanding cinematography (by Mario Barroso), superb compositions, decor and use of scenery, and- not least- a hypnotic central performance by Leonor Silveira as the self-centred beauty married to a dull doctor, who embarks on unfulfilling affairs.

    Graced with Vermeerian serenity, and a rich but intangible sense of mystery worthy of Velasquez, it's as "rounded, strange and deep" as a noble vintage wine from the area's vineyards. One for the connoisseur (and who here is not?) to savour at leisure.
     
  2. john davies

    john davies Stunt Coordinator

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    I should have changed the thread title to SEX to attract interest. 10 viewings really isn't good enough!

    Abraham Valley may well leave some viewers wondering what i see in it. It's quite slow and talkative, with regular voice-over that may irritate, though for me this acts as an interesting counterpoint and overlap to the visuals. The often arrogant characters are certainly not a mouthpiece for the director's politics.


    There are delightful moments that involve the spectator unexpectedly, some exceptionally lovely scenes (including one with a flower, another in the moonlight to Debussy's Clair de Lune), skilful use of mirrors and lots of subtle touches that could pass unappreciated. The classical music (with Beethoven's moonlit sonata also) is very effective and enhances the gracefulness. There's a refined sense of "off-screen spcae". For all the talk, the film's greatst strengths are visual and the value of wise silence is underlined.

    Look out for an impertinent cat, and a violin playing scene, that only go to show Oliveira's wit undercutting pretentiousness. This is a film of multiple ironies, some felt by the characters, others for the audience. The area looks great and the photography and compositions- as i've said- are quite brilliant. If you're in the right mood, have time set aside for a concentrating wallow i think it could be very rewarding.

    I give all these caveats cos i don't know anyone who loves it as much as i do- then again, it's hardly known. It did make the Portuguese Cinemateca's top 100 European films. Each time i see it there's a patch where i think the magic is lost but it always comes through again for me.

    Do see it, and if you don't like it, well, what's 3 hrs between fellow cinephiles?
     
  3. Vickie_M

    Vickie_M Producer

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    It sounds interesting to me, thanks for bringing it to my attention!
     
  4. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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