Monthly Archives: July 2008

Christopher Columbus, The Enigma

One of the more puzzling features by the puzzling Manoel de Oliveira, this placid travelogue (2007) was adapted by him from an autobiographical book by Manuel and Silvia da Silva. A Portuguese man (Ricardo Trepa, the director’s grandson) emigrates to the U.S. in 1946, becomes a doctor, and returns home in 1960 to marry. In 2007, he and his wife (Oliveira and his own wife) tour various American and Caribbean historical sites to confirm his curious theory that Christopher Columbus was a Portuguese Jew; turning up at all these sites, and visible only to the viewer, is a mute, female angel carrying a sword and a Portuguese flag. Like some of Oliveira’s other minor works (The Letter, Belle Toujours), this intermittently suggests a poker-faced joke without a punch line. In English and subtitled Portuguese. 70 min. (JR)… Read more »

Day Of Despair

Manoel de Oliveira’s 1992 feature is his third related to Portuguese writer Camilo Castelo Branco, author of the novel Oliveira adapted for his masterpiece Doomed Love (1979) and a major character in Francisca (1981). Built around the author’s late correspondence before he shot himself in 1890, this is comparatively minor and minimalist, but it’s an affecting chamber piece. Oliveira slyly mixes documentary and fiction: actors appear in both contemporary and period dress, speaking alternately in first and third person, inside the author’s home (today a museum). The ironic treatment of aristocracy and romantic decadence found in Doomed Love is regrettably absent, but Teresa Madruga, as the most prominent character, Castelo Branco’s last mistress, delivers her lines with commanding passion. In Portuguese with subtitles. 74 min. (JR)… Read more »