Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB
Original Title: Singularidades de uma Rapariga Loura
Portugal/Spain/France, 2009. Filmes do Tejo, Les Films de l’Après-Midi, Centre National De La Cinematographie, Câmara Municipal de Lisboa, Eddie Saeta S.A., Fonds Eurimages du Conseil de l’Europe, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Instituto do Cinema e do Audiovisual, Lusomundo, Ministério da Cultura, Radiotelevisão Portuguesa, Televisio de Catalunya, Tobis Portuguesa, ZDF/Arte. Adaptation and Screenplay by Manoel de Oliveira, based on short story by Eca de Queiros. Cinematography by Sabine Lancelin. Produced by Francois d’Artemare, Maria Joao Mayer, Lluis Minarro. Music by Ana Paula Miranda. Production Design by Christian Marti, Jose Pedro Penha. Costume Design by Adelaide Maria Trepa. Film Editing by Manoel de Oliveira, Catherine Krassovsky.
It’s hard to ignore director Manoel de Oliveira’s age when assessing the qualities of films he made late in his career, in this case a film that was released after he had turned 100 years old. Short, soft and told in a minor key, it’s a lovely featurette based on the 19th century story by Eça de Queirós but set in the present day, in which a young man named Macário (Ricardo Trêpa, the director’s grandson) rides a train next to a stranger (played by Leonor Silveira) to whom he tells his tale of woe. We flash back to when Macário was working as an accountant for his uncle’s classy department store, sitting in an upstairs office and gazing out the window while poring over ledgers when he spots a beautiful woman in the building opposite his.
He learns that her name is Luisa (Catarina Wallenstein) and meets her at a salon during a musical performance, and the two develop a mutual attraction and decide they want to marry. His uncle tells Macário that he does not give permission for this marriage and fires his nephew instead, necessitating that the young couple delay their nuptials until he gets himself financially stable again.
He is sent on business to Cape Verde by shifty businessmen who take advantage of his good nature, but our hero is faithful and his good nature eventually brings him close to his goals: the question is, is what he wants actually what he needs? A careful-what-you-wish for scenario is played with subtle comedic charm in a film whose intentionally antiquated dialogue and carefully measured performances give it the feeling of enchanted poetry.
Toronto International Film Festival: 2009