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Lisbon, 1999. Amid the bustle of a train station, an old man beseeches passers-by, 'Have you seen my daughter?' No one pays him any mind. Two junkie street kids live by night in an orgy of petty larceny, one, Daniel (Pinto), increasingly frustrated with their lack of haul. An Irish aid worker, Cathy (Cadell), celebrates her 20th anniversary with her native husband Pedro (Morrison), an influential lawyer with a finger in too many pies. If Portuguese films have a reputation for avant garde mysteriousness, this offering from film professor, public official, former critic and sometime film-maker Alberto Seixas Santos (his fifth film in 25 years, including joint efforts) certainly keeps the faith. It's a strange mixture of the portentous and the elusive: a fraught state-of-humanity address with a startlingly grandiose conclusion that keeps its meaning all too close to its chest. There are but pieces of stories here, only some connecting; the crux, in which the near-saintly Cathy discovers her husband's serial philandering the hard way, offers compelling glimpses of a blind but nourishing marriage. But Santos is less interested in developing his characters than in insinuating moral corruption through scattered references to broken relationships, political skulduggery, drugs, AIDS, race, immigration, the media and terrorism.

By: NB

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