Saturday, June 15, 2013

Centro Histórico / Historic Centre

PT © 2012 Guimarães 2012, etc. D: Aki Kaurismäki (O Tasqueiro / Tavern Man), Pedro Costa (Lamenta da Vida Jovem / Sweet Exorcism), Víctor Erice (Vidros Partidos / Broken Windows), Manoel de Oliveira (O Conquistador, Conquistado / The Conquered Conqueror). 90 min. 2K DCP with English subtitles from Urban Distribution viewed at Iso Teltta / The Big Top, Sodankylä (Midnight Sun Film Festival), 15 June 2013

Peter von Bagh introduced the movie, all four directors of which are Sodankylä veterans.

The Festival Catalogue: "Commissioned by Guimarães, the 2012 European Capital of Culture, Historic Centre is an elegiac portmanteau film with political overtones, set in multi-dimensional Portugal and made by four luminaries of world cinema, all familiar faces to previous Sodankylä audiences."
  "In Aki Kaurismäki's Tavern Man, the wordless and picturesque opener, a Portuguese man played by Ilkka Koivula (!) keeps a restaurant on the dark side of the street. His own business mostly devoid of customers, he scrounges for ideas at a more popular neighbourhood venue."
  "Pedro Costa has a rather more flexible approach to the urban assignment, setting his segment in the claustrophobic space of a lift, where Ventura, a familiar protagonist from his previous work, has a conversation with a soldier painted into a statue."
  "A rare work from Spanish master Victor Erice, the third episode employs the testimonies of former workers of a textile factory, shut down in 2002. The second largest in Europe during its heyday, its history is documented with warmth and nostalgia."
  "Manoel de Oliveira, still active at 104, closes the film with a brief segment featuring a tour guide who gives his group a recap of Portuguese history while roaming the deserted city streets. The present glides over the past, disregarding all boundaries of time."
(Lauri Timonen)

O TASQUEIRO / TAVERN MAN. Aki Kaurismäki's Laitakaupungin valot / Lights in the Dusk was for me a delta blues. O Tasqueiro is a fado. This restaurant-centered short resembles Dogs Have No Hell, among others. Ilkka Koivula plays in dead pan, but his eyes are alive. The colour, including the signature blue, are expressive. The story of a loser, a study in solitude. The fado music is haunting.

LAMENTA DA VIDA JOVEM / SWEET EXORCISM. Pedro Costa has also brought a favourite actor to this movie: Ventura from Cape Verde. There is a skirmish at night, then Ventura is in prison, and the movie proper takes place in an elevator, in tableau style, in long takes and long shots. The soldier guarding Ventura is a living statue, and the elevator becomes a place for a political discussion, although the other speakers besides Ventura remain invisible.

VIDOS PARTIDOS / BROKEN WINDOWS by Víctor Erice is an oral history of the Rio Vizela textile mill. It used to be one of the largest in Europe, established in 1845 and shut down in 2002. (I can understand something of this since I lived in Tampere, "the Manchester of Finland", in the 1960s and the 1970s, when there were still many textile mills there. All that production is now in the cheap labour countries of Asia.) There are some nine interviews, all done with the concept of one shot - one person. In the conclusion each one comments on an old photograph, seen in a huge enlargement, of the factory cantina: "they are looking at us". I like: the soulful faces, eyes and voices in these deeply felt reminiscences. While admiring the film I cannot relate to the resigned and melancholy atmosphere, as little as I could in Bill Morrison's The Miners' Hymns.

O CONQUISTADOR, CONQUISTADO / THE CONQUERED CONQUEROR, the final segment, has been directed by Manoel de Oliveira, who turned 104 in last December. A group of tourists "conquers" the historical center of Guimarães, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The camera shares the tourist's low angle viewpoint. The soundtrack includes J.S. Bach's concertoes played by Glenn Gould.

The visual quality of the DCP is fine.

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