Thursday 23 July 2020

The Strange Case of Angelica [2010]

Celebrated Portuguese auteur and one of cinema’s greatest statesmen Manoel de Oliveira’s hypnotic, mystical, ruminative, strangely oddball and fable-like penultimate film, The Strange Case of Angelica, was conceived in 1946 and the initial script was written in 1952; and yet it was finally made nearly 6 decades later, by which time the filmmaker was astonishingly 102 years old. This imbued a quaint sense of anachronism into the film and its protagonist, and a poignant sense of mortality too. Upon the untimely and mysterious death of the young Catholic bride Angélica (Pilar López de Ayala), a desperate hunt for a professional photographer on that rainy night leads to the summoning of absent-minded dilettante Isaac (Ricardo Trêpa, the director’s grandson) to get the job done. If the strangely tranquil look of the ravishingly beautiful woman wasn’t enough, he finds her opening her eyes and even smiling to him when he looks at her through his camera’s viewfinder. Consequently, this lost and introverted guy, who stays alone in a boarding house and is fascinated by outmoded subjects like men tilling the land manually to the rhythm of deeply mournful tunes – much to the bewilderment of his caring landlady and the other boarders – finds himself increasingly infatuated with the dead lady’s photograph. The spare narrative’s magic realism took an even more entrancing turn when the phosphorescent ghost of the lady appears – either in his dreams or in reality – and takes him on a transcendental ride through the night sky, which intensifies his obsessive quest. Curious mishmash of the old-fashioned and the modern, along with elements from silent era cinema, delicately suffused the film with an atmosphere that was fantastical, nostalgic and melancholic.

Director: Manoel de Oliveira
Genre: Drama/Magic Realism
Language: Portuguese
Country: Portugal

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