A Talking Picture (2003)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB

Original title:  Um Filme Falado

Portugal/France/Italy, 2003.  Madragoa Filmes, Gemini Films, Mikado Film, France 2 Cinéma, Instituto do Cinema, Audiovisual e Multimédia, Radiotelevisão Portuguesa, Centre National de la Cinématographie, Canal+, CinéCinéma, Eurimages, Interlinea Films.  Screenplay by Manoel de Oliveira.  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Manoel de Oliveira, who was an astonishing 95 at the time he made this film, creates an obviously allegorical but satisfying and memorable film that examines human relations throughout the centuries. A Portuguese history professor (Leonor Silveira) takes her daughter on a tour of the Mediterranean on her way to meeting her airline pilot husband in Bombay, stopping in Marseilles, Athens, Istanbul and Cairo and giving her daughter explicit instruction in the history of these cultures.

This beautiful cinematic voyage, during which the woman amazingly never gets tired of her little girl’s three thousand questions a minute, culminates in a beautiful final act when the captain of her ship (John Malkovich) invites her to join him at his table. There she listens to him discuss the state of art, culture and politics today, both personal and global with three famous European women (Stefania Sandrelli, Irene Papas, Catherine Deneuve).

The film’s title is no pun, it really is one conversation after another, but it is wholly engaging and thought-provoking, with an ending that pushes the envelope of sense (and subtlety) but helps put the film’s exploratory aims into sharp perspective.  Sandrelli, Papas and Deneuve are luminous, showing no signs of slowing down their uber-glamour, while the man behind the camera displays an adoration for humanity that most people decades younger than him have already lost.

Toronto International Film Festival:  2003

Venice Film Festival:  In Competition


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