|Pilar Lopez de Ayala, The Strange Case of Angelica, The Cinema Guild, 2011.|
Continuing his fascinating fore into the inner-trappings of narrative cinema, octogenarian Portuguese master Manoel De Oliveira delivers his annual tale of love, obsession, and death with The Strange Case of Angelica. A mysteriously beautiful film, Angelica channels Bunuel as usual as well as the Brothers Grimm, Hitchcock, and Renoir. The simple narrative is a deceptive guise for De Oliveira's musings on the aforementioned facets of life.
Ricardo Trepa, the director's grandson, serves as his surrogate once more, this time playing Isaac, a young man who becomes drawn into a strange mystery involving a wealthy family in a Portuguese village and their recently deceased daughter, the title character. Through a strange series of events, he is taken for the village photographer and hired to photgraph Angelica in her death bed. When he looks through the camera lens, she is alive and smiling.
The shifting sensibility of his fascination with the dead girl tinges every scene with a melancholy light somewhere between the end of life and beyond. De Oliveira's trademarks are on display; an extremely brief running time, distance, austerity, coolly beauteous images, curious peripheral characters, internalized protagonists we can never quite grasp, emotions hidden away. The framework perfectly suits his narrative style. Dp Sabine Lancelin burnishes his artful images onto the celluloid; together they craft some of the most intoxicating imagery this side of Raoul Ruiz.
At 103 years old, one of the last masters of world cinema shows why he is still relevant, and reminds us how mediocre motion pictures are getting, with this small gem of wonder.
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