21 February 2008 | GrigoryGirl
This was part of a 2 film retrospective (for lack of a better term) at the Anthology Film Archives in NYC of recent works by Manoel de Oliveira (the other film was The Fifth Empire-Yesterday as Today). This is the better of the two films. This one has one of the more surreal plots of any de Oliveira film. It concerns itself with a rich woman (played by Leonor Silveira, a mainstay in Manoel's films) who has a strong desire to witness the Virgin Mary. 2 con men (one of whom has been just released from jail and the other is trying to go "clean", but doesn't seem to be trying too hard) devise a scheme to milk her out of some money and hire a local girl to portray the Virgin Mary for her. The plot here is actually quite funny, and this is one of de Oliveira's most surreal, touching, and beguiling films. The performances are all first rate, and the film has a wonderful, languid pacing to it (like most of Manoel's films). There is even a strange, dreamlike scene that takes "place" in Venice. It looks like a projection mistake when I first saw it, but then realised it was supposed to look like that, it made a sort of unique sense. I was rather disappointed at the crowds for these films (there was only 10 people in the audience for Magic Mirror, only 6 for The Fifth Empire), but I stayed for the duration of both films. I'm glad I'm did. Much of Manoel's work is not on DVD, but if you get a chance to see any of his work, please do. Even his minor films (like Party) are pretty good.