O Fatalista : the libertarian philosophy of Botelho
by Fabien Lemercier
Regular guest at la Mostra since 1988, Portuguese filmmaker Joao Botelho did not disappoint his admirers last night with the screening in official competition of O Fatalista [+see also:
film profile], free adaptation of Jacques Le Fataliste written by the French philosopher Denis Diderot in 1770. A contemporary revisiting in which the director managed to extract a mix of wacky humour, of constant social satire and an analysis of the attraction between the sexes. Plunging often into absurdity and Bunuel-Fellini-like surrealism, the Lusitanian director captures, without diluting, the permanent flow of dialogue pouring forth from the unhinged (and remarkable) duo of actors Rogério Samora and André Gomez.
Playing respectively the characters of Tiago the bus-driver and Patrao his boss, the two comedians gleefully give their all on a long road journey that appears without end. Intercut with the reflections of a narrator talking to the spectators and being ironic about the multiple narrative possibilities, this road-movie gets its rhythm from Tiago’s amorous adventures which almost make a film within a film. This buddy portrait of a boss-worker relationship so dear to classical theatre with its upturned hierarchy, with the inferior character leading the dance like the King’s fool, seducing the women and breaking the law, while his superior takes the position of impassioned watcher and listener, in reality masks a libertarian philosophy behind the veil of a comedy. As Joao Botelho underlined, "The aim of Jacques le Fataliste is to deal with the only thing that can change the world : the class struggle". But this underlying theme passes through the filter of the filmmaker’s fetishist obsessions as far as women are concerned (notably their legs) and above all by a striking visual quality, close to painting. Very classic in its cinematic workmanship, O Fatalista shows once more how Botelho excels when filming nature, from the green of the tree to the blue of the sky. And this great power of suggestion in the background is an ideal accompaniment, like an insidious drunkenness, to the verbal and imaginary wanderings which populate this undeniably original film.
Produced by Paolo Branco for his French company Gémini Films (chargée aussi des ventes internationales) and his Portuguese counterpart Madragoa Filmes, O Fatalista had support from ICAM (Istitudo do Cinema Audiovisual e Multimedia) and from RTP (Radiotelevisão Portuguesa).
(Translated from French)
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