12 September 2002 | wjfickling
A moving and subtle masterpiece
Anyone who thinks this movie is boring is a horse's ass who should stick to car chase movies. This is a brilliant, moving, and subtle film that is all the more poignant because, it's director being a nonagenarian, it could well be his swan song, and that of its 76 year old principal as well. De Oliveira, like his lead character, will not compromise his principles by dumbing down his material. Much of the film is silent, i.e., with no dialogue precisely because it is a film, a visual medium, not a play. The done is set by De Oliveira's daring opening, which consists of its actor-character enacting the finale of an Ionesco play, which goes on for over 15 minutes. A daring move that pays off because, perhaps predictably, what happens in the play is a predictor of what is to come. The film is not unlike King Lear, in that it stresses the sadness of seeing one who once had greatness, and who still has flashes of it, in decline and perhaps at the end of his powers. It is a sublime meditation on the inevitability of death and the foolishness of fighting it. A minor masterpiece.