Manoel de Oliveira | Porto da Minha Infância / Oporto of My Childhood | Singularidades de uma Rapariga Loura / Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl | Painéis de São Vicente de Fora - Visão Poética / Panels of St. Vicente de Fora - Poetic Vision

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Manoel de Oliveira

Manoel de Oliveira is a Portuguese film director.

Common subjects in the films of Manoel de Oliveira:


History: Structure: Architecture: Geometry: Costumes:

Porto da Minha Infância / Oporto of My Childhood

Porto da Minha Infância / Oporto of My Childhood (2001) is a sort of mixture of documentary and some simple drama, recreating the city of Oporto in the earlier 20th Century. It is where Manoel de Oliveira grew up and lived in his young adulthood. It is 61 minutes long. It shows striking imagery and visual style. It is sweet, and just plain gorgeous to look at.

My knowledge of Oliveira is limited, but still can see parallels to other works. This film especially resembles Voyage to the Beginning of the World (1997). Both feature long, spectacular moving camera sequences, going straight down long but curving and twisting roads - some of the visual highlights of both films. Both are set in Portugal, and both try to show locales that are revelatory or typical about that country. One can see somewhat similar tracking shots down Taiwanese streets in Goodbye South, Goodbye (Hou Hsiao-Hsien, 1996). The camera movements in Voyage to the Beginning of the World show country lanes, those in Oporto of My Childhood city streets, and feature richer architectural landmarks than the simple country dwellings in the earlier film.

Voyage to the Beginning of the World has a director-figure embedded in the story, who offers much commentary; Oporto of My Childhood has the director commenting directly on the sound track as narrator.

Both films have much about the dark fascist era of mid-Twentieth Century history, and all the tragedy it caused. Oporto of My Childhood seems far more hopeful about the future, however. The poem read on the soundtrack is inspiring. Its vision of a liberal Europe without nationalism, war or fights over borders is wonderful. We need more idealistic, utopian art like this, that can offer people visions.

There is also a scene from a play, as in I'm Going Home (2001). The play-within-the-play was the best part of I'm Going Home, although I did not care for the rest of that film much - it seemed awfully thin, and fairly defeatist. In Oporto of My Childhood, the play is more joyous, and Oliveira himself plays the role of the Thief in the stage comedy. Both works also show filmmaking going on.

Oporto of My Childhood also reminds one of the various memoirs of Jorge Luis Borges, that are scattered through his works. Both create a rich depiction of all the cultural life and ferment in their worlds in the 1920's-1940's - a glimpse of a now vanished but fascinating world. So many people here are poets, playwrights, architects or filmmakers. Everything in this world is handmade, and people seem to have no trouble considering themselves as artistic creators.

And of the romantic life of young men of the era. The big sites for romantic encounters are the local pastry shops. This reminds one of the little restaurants frequented by lovers in the films of Ernst Lubitsch. This festive locale makes a pleasant contrast to today's singles bars.

Geometry and Architecture: Curves and Straight Lines

The box at the theater has curved partitions in the background. This makes a striking composition.

Later, the three friends are talking against the background of a curved arch - slightly more conventional.

The shots of the curved arch bridge over the river, are taken from a road that is itself curved.

By contrast, the night drive through Oporto is full of rectilinear compositions, formed by the buildings seen from the car. This is a remarkable long take sequence, full of visual interest in the unfolding compositions.

The beautiful storefronts shown in the picture fall in the middle of the curved-straight line continuum. They tend to be made up of repeating panels, separated by vertical straight lines. But they also have curving, more-or-less horizontal lines at the top. The pastry shop storefront is good, the Café Majestic is terrific.

The staircase at the theater lobby is part of a rectilinear composition. Later in Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl, there will also be a complex composition involving a staircase, at the notary's mansion. Both compositions have the staircase as one part of a view of a building interior; both are level, frontal views; both are mainly rectilinear, except for straight lines of the staircase bannister.


The young Manoel is repeatedly shown wearing really good suits: at the theater, watching the climber, at the night club. These suits combine the "good suits" revival of the 1980's and 1990's, with historical styles. They evoke the stylish historical fantasies of the 1980's, of being really well-dressed.

By contrast, the three young men talking by the pastry shop bar, are in old-fashioned suits that today look cornball.

Singularidades de uma Rapariga Loura / Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl

Singularidades de uma Rapariga Loura / Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl (2009) is a romantic drama.

It is mainly a fiction film. But early on, there are documentary-like sections, one showing a house devoted to a Portuguese writer, the other a poetry and music recital at a Lisbon mansion. These sections depict the cultural life of a city: a subject that recalls Oporto of My Childhood. They are recreating old culture, also like Oporto of My Childhood: a 19th Century writer, followed by poetry from the early 20th Century. This recreation of traditional culture is also the mode of Oporto of My Childhood. These sections are much more upbeat than the rest of Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl. They also have visual style, with gorgeous locations being visited. These sections are far and away my favorite part of Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl. I like them more than the romantic drama around them.

Also a bit documentary-like: the Art Nouveau store-front of the uncle's shop. One suspects this is perhaps a real shop somewhere in Lisbon. It continues the subject of evoking traditional Portuguese culture. Occasional, and welcome, street scenes in Lisbon perhaps also fall into this mode.

While there are no camera movements down long streets, there are perhaps a related kind of shot. The train sequences allow us to see the countryside passing by outside the window, shot clearly and in detail.


The hero wears one of those short beards that were hip in the 00's during most of the flashbacks, but is clean shaven in the train journey frame. He also wears "young man suits" in the flashbacks, and traditional suit, white shirt and tie in the train. He looks startlingly more grown up in the train sequence. And much better looking, too. It suggests that traditional ideas of masculine appearance, however old fashioned, are more flattering to men.

The hero also wears the traditional look in the last part of the flashback. It parallels his success as a businessman, and suggests that the traditional look is part of traditional capitalism, an ominous subtext.

Painéis de São Vicente de Fora - Visão Poética / Panels of St. Vicente de Fora - Poetic Vision

Painéis de São Vicente de Fora - Visão Poética / Panels of St. Vicente de Fora - Poetic Vision (2010) is a short film, mixing documentary, simple drama and fantasy. In North America, it is available on the DVD containing Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl, as an extra.

Panels of St. Vicente de Fora recalls parts of Oporto of My Childhood. Both are poetic documentaries, showing important historical aspects of Portuguese culture and the arts. Both contain long, idealistic speeches, outlining a liberal peaceful future: the poem on Europe in Oporto of My Childhood, the saint's message in Panels of St. Vicente de Fora.

There was a religious painting in an altarpiece style on the back of a church wall in Oporto of My Childhood. This anticipates the altarpiece which is the main subject in Panels of St. Vicente de Fora.

An early Portuguese filmmaker comes back to life, to make a simple film in the streets in Oporto of My Childhood. This bit of fantasy anticipates the the saint and other historical characters coming to life in Panels of St. Vicente de Fora. However, the saint and others are as they are depicted in the painting, so they form a "painting come to life". This makes the fantasy a bit different and more "fantastic" than the simple historical revival in Oporto of My Childhood.

Both films feature Oliveira's grandsons, brothers Ricardo Trêpa and Jorge Trêpa.