22 June 2007 | RResende
There is much to be said about this one. It's fantastic to be able to appreciate such a picture, to live the moment where this finally happened. I don't know much about M.Martins, i hadn't heard of him before this one (and practically no one had). i also don't know what he'll do next. But i put this one along with a very few number of "difficult to get better" first tries by any director (a list with titles such as "a bout de soufflé" or "citizen kane").
The city is the theme. Forget the story. It is there. Period. It serves the purpose of grasping a city hardly seen on screen before this. Period. that's all there is to say.
So this succeeds where "Ossos" and "O fantasma" had failed completely; in showing Lisbon out of clichés, of preconceived warmed up imagery's. Time goes on, cinema has to catch it. This is catching up with time.
This brings the city to zero ground. The screens (how many do we see during the film?) that belong to Lopes's character are the white canvas where actions draw themselves, in blue. The camera (an experimenting young director, says me) tries to fetch them, tries to make them eternal, all the scenes, everywhere. Lopes (the actor, real life and in this film) tries to get to them, he participates, he can even show up in front of a camera, but he can never control it. So, the actor as a pawn, constantly exposed, never in control. This is cinema, and Mário (Lopes) understands it the moment he sees 10 times his face on the screens of a store. He also performs a play, a comedy, inside the play which is the film. Double manipulation. Great material! He is an actor, manipulated to appear the way this visionary director wants, and he plays an actor, who is forced to perform something he is not the least interested in, to be able to proceed with his other function, which he thinks he controls, but he doesn't.
The camera can be "god", a character, or it can grab a character and follow it. The camera can be the spectator, our curiosity moving around. Here, the camera is a mood, a spiritual landscape, such as the music. It's a dot placed on the infinite. So it doesn't matter if it focuses or unfocuses, or what it focuses, first or second plan, cars pass in front, also people strange to the scenes (every people are strange here). "Freewill" framing, apparent chaos, apparent "no man" camera. This is the true quality of Alice. All so contemporary, all so apparently chaotic, still, everything controlled we don't know how, nor by whom. This is Lisbon.
Still, i don't hold the optimism (nor the skepticism) of the common Portuguese cinema buff. I don't watch this one as "the new path that will improve Portuguese cinema for good". One film, especially on this author basis, doesn't change a hole (inexistent) cinema industry. But i do think that, from a cinematic point of view; this is worthwhile, and has a place on the top of my shelve.
Dialogs subtle, right, rigorous. Music may be the only apparition of the missing Alice. Photos, flyers and even Alice herself don't count. This is one of the best minimalist soundtracks ever. Glass would make Koyaanisqatsi differently if he could have seen this first. But than again, this is so much better than Reggio's living-death tail of industrialization.
The city is blue, so is Alice's coat, he's always seeking blue... and failing to find it. Think about. You should watch this along with "Lisboetas". This one first.
My evaluation: 5/5 fantastic cinematic essay.
P.S. - I just feel pity that watching the making of and the extras makes me feel that this was all luck, and no one involved gave a single thought to what i just said. I wish the extra material could be more useful than just curious (it could be both).