> Volume 6 > Number 24


Manoel de Oliveira

Leonor Silveira
Filipa de Almeida
John Malkovich
Catherine Deneuve
Stefania Sandrelli
Irene Papas

Release: N/A

A Talking Picture


Many, myself included, thought the release of I’m Going Home to be an intentional swansong for the then 93-year-old Manoel de Oliviera. The film’s resolution, with a man retiring after a long career in show business, welcoming death, felt slightly autobiographical. But two years later, de Oliviera is still at it. His latest, A Talking Picture, has all the agility of man half his age.

The title is particularly brilliant considering that de Oliviera is one of the last working directors who got his start in silent films. It’s also representative of the film, which is like Russian Ark in reverse, with people talking about the role of early civilizations in the East -- Greece, India, etc. -- in the development of a dominant West. Set around a cruise in which a history professor tells her daughter of all the contributions the East has brought to places like Marseilles, the film foregoes a narrative story for pedantic exercises. There’s much to be said in this doctoral thesis, and de Oliviera succeeds in making it interesting in this cinematic form.

There is a small story that occurs on the cruise ship as the captain (Malkovich seemingly playing himself) converses with the celebrities who’ve come onto the cruise. They all speak their native tongue -- English, French, Greek, Portuguese -- without any problems understanding each other. They’re the offspring of all these Eastern traditions, amalgamated into a Western ethos that wines and dines, failing to note the regression simultaneously going on in their native East. With a surprise bang, de Oliviera reminds them

©2004, David Perry,, 11 June 2004