Eroticism, anarchy, cigarettes, pretty girls and pubic hair – to celebrate the year’s end, the Cinémathèque française will be paying tribute to the late Portuguese director João César Monteiro with a complete retrospective of his films.
Monteiro’s melancholic oeuvre, populated by lonely, antisocial characters, provides a timely antidote to the action-packed, joke-a-minute scripts of mainstream cinema. Through his alter ego Jean de Dieu, a recurring character in his films, the director engages with themes of sex, solitude and the banal poetry of existence. A charming, disenchanted dandy of not quite sound mind, Jean de Dieu spends his time smoking and collecting girls’ pubes, which he treats as something akin to religious icons. He’s a magnetic screen presence, serving as the missing link between the crudeness of Jean Eustache and the gentle eroticism of Eric Rohmer.
The retrospective takes in Monteiro’s lesser-known early works – including his shorts – as well as his later masterpieces. A welcome reminder that cinema’s finest auteurs aren’t necessarily its most famous.
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