Cinema, Manoel de Oliveira and Me: João Botelho presents his tribute to Oliveira
by Vitor Pinto
- The movie includes a silent black-and-white story entitled The Girl With the Gloves, which Oliveira had planned to shoot
Manoel de Oliveira died last year, but his presence is still greatly missed and his legacy still keenly felt, particularly among those who worked closely with him. Director João Botelho (The Maias – Story of a Portuguese Family [+see also:
film profile]) is one of them. For years a contributor to Oliveira’s films, a sort of protégé with whom the Porto-born director shared a lot of his know-how and work-related philosophy, Botelho has now made a poignant tribute to the maestro. Cinema, Manoel de Oliveira and Me [+see also:
film profile] – not a very inspiring title, one could say – premiered last weekend at the IndieLisboa festival, which unspools in the Portuguese capital until 1 May.
The film opens with a photo of Oliveira and Botelho taken in 1980, when the older director – then in his early 70s – was about to begin the most prolific and creative of his working decades. Botelho himself narrates the bond between the two men, taking a trip down memory lane and blending those stories with excerpts from over 20 films by Oliveira – most of which have recently been restored.
Which piece of Oliveira’s advice was the most valuable? According to Botelho, in the Q&A that followed the screening, Oliveira once told him: “Prostitute yourself to get money to shoot, but do not prostitute yourself while making your film. It is ‘your’ film. Do not make any concessions.” But that certainly was not the only thing that Oliveira told him. He also shared a lot of plots that he never managed to transform into film. And Botelho, making no compromises and shunning the orthodox path trodden by most tribute movies, decided to build the whole second part of the film around one of those plots.
Therefore, Cinema, Manoel de Oliveira and Me presents a film within a film: a silent black-and-white story named The Girl With the Gloves. Starring Mariana Dias, Maria João Pinho and Oliveira’s muse, Leonor Silveira, the film tells the story of a young woman who runs away from her parents’ home and ends up in a brothel. Botelho directs his cast as he would have done in a real old-time silent film, enhancing gestures and looks with the beautiful cinematography of João Ribeiro – who was also recently involved in another black-and-white film, Letters from War [+see also:
Q&A: Ivo M Ferreira
film profile] – and leaving room for composer Nicholas McNair to envelop the images in an exhilarating musical atmosphere.
“We talk a lot about public service. For me, this film is an example of public service. It should be shown in schools and other institutions to contextualise and promote Oliveira’s body of work,” concluded Botelho.