Sunday 12 October 2014

Recollections of the Yellow House [1989]

Regarding characters created by directors and played by themselves on screen in multiple films, none match the enduring popularity and sheer brilliance of Chaplin’s The Tramp and Tati’s Monsieur Hulot. Portuguese filmmaker João César Monteiro’s ageing, gangly, chain-smoking, neurotic, soft-spoken, lascivious, kindly, amoral, fetishistic, pseudo-philosophical and self-destructive alter-ego, a quintessential ‘dirty old man’ persona, reminiscent of Woody’s self-deprecatory and semi-autobiographical portrayals, João de Deus, in his wry, quirky, darkly funny and deadpan ‘Trilogy of Deus (God)’, ought to be a contender for the above ranks despite its relative obscurity. Recollections of the Yellow House, the marvelous, dryly comedic and deliciously cheeky 1st chapter of the trilogy, which also comprised of A Comédia de Deus and As Bodas de Deus, chronicled the quirky travails of the penurious protagonist residing in the titular boarding house in Lisbon. He is thoroughly besotted with the beautiful clarinet-playing daughter of his puritanical landlady Dona Violeta (Manuelade Freiras) and surreptitiously fetishizes on her, his loins are constantly under attack by the bedbugs but Dona refuses to accept his complaints, he becomes engaged in an unemotional relationship with a sad prostitute looking for solace, and when the object of his desire dies while getting an abortion, he experiences a rather ludicrous psychological meltdown leading to incarceration. Monteiro resorted to very long takes, stretches of silence and the idiosyncratic interactions between the characters, to delectably capture the seedy physical environs and the lonely, vacillating and degenerate old man’s complex psyche with a deviant sense of aesthete; the end result, hence, was in equal measures mordant and poignant.

Director: Joao Cesar Monteiro
Genre: Black Comedy/Social Satire
Language: Portuguese
Country: Portugal

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