Journey to the Beginning of the World
Time Out saysManoel de Oliveira was born in 1908 and made his first movie in 1929. It's no surprise then that this 1997 production feels like an old man's film. Manoel, a Portuguese director (Mastroianni), revisits childhood haunts on a pilgrimage with his actors and collaborators, Afonso (Gautier), Judite (Silveira) and Duarte (Dória). Oliveira keeps it simple. Conversations are interspersed with shots from the moving car. They stop by a river and look across to the Jesuit college Manoel attended. He reminisces and flirts with Judite - then they drive on. The first half is rambling and pretentious - unless you share Oliveira's obvious fondness for Manoel. Then a strange thing happens. With scant warning, attention shifts to Afonso - in fact, it transpires that this pilgrimage is for his benefit, a visit to his dead father's sister in a remote peasant village. They've never met before, and Afonso's aunt is hostile and suspicious. The scene in which he breaks through is a sustained tour de force. Oliveira's insistence on stasis and change, saudades - nostalgia, history, atavism - these themes find an emotional hold in the face of actress Isabel de Castro.