Eccentricities of a Blond-Haired Girl

4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

This incisive recent feature by cinema’s most well-known centenarian is as spry as its protagonist, Macrio (Trpa), who dances an impromptu jig after finding a way to approach the attractive blond girl he spies each day from his office window. She’s Lusa Vilaa (Wallenstein), in every way Macrio’s feminine ideal, though we know there’s something about her—an eccentricity, or, per the original Portuguese title, a singularity—that’s driven him away since the details of their aborted love affair are being told to a stranger on a train (Silveira).

De Oliveira adapted the tale from a short story by realist author Ea de Queirs, though the film’s style is hardly vrit. Daytime jump-cuts into night, church bells peal an indeterminate hour, and the lead characters’ 19th-century mores are continually contrasted with bustling modern-day Lisbon. In De Oliveira’s world, time and space are infinitely malleable—the past is present and the present past. Lusa’s “singularity” would barely cause a blip nowadays, but here it’s shattering; there is nowhere for her to go once Macrio finds her out. In the film’s striking penultimate shot, she slumps in a chair, becoming a sort of animate still life, rejected by her lover (and, by extension, society), yet forced indefinitely to endure.—Keith Uhlich

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