For Reel

The Strange Case of Angelica (2010)
March 28, 2011, 8:47 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Manoel de Oliveira

Having just reached 103, Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira is one of the most significant voices working in world cinema today. His latest, The Strange Case of Angelica, is indisputably the work of a master at the top of his form – from the vibrant simplicities of his compositions to his fascinating insights into our perceptions of the metaphysical. The film concerns a young photographer that obsesses over a dead woman who smiles at him through his photographs. Ricardo Trêpa, Oliveira’s grandson who frequently stars in his films, seems to be cast as the director’s surrogate. He’s a man with simple, nostalgic pleasures who, after expressing disinterest in a discussion about the climate crisis, enthusiastically inquires his landlady’s visitors about the harmony of matter and anti-matter. However, the film seems to criticize Trêpa’s naivety as much as it romanticizes it – one could see him as a religious zealot, obsessing over that which he has no control over while neglecting that which is tangible. His worldview is as restricted as the reoccurring motif of a bird locked in a cage, and when the growls of heavy machinery drown out the song of the day-laborers tilling the fields, Oliveira seems to suggest that Trêpa’s mystical obsessions are antiquated.

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