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Portuguese pot-pourri

GOWRI RAMNARAYAN

A package of six Portuguese films will be screened at the Film Chamber from May 9-12.

Portuguese cinema has developed a tone and temperature of its own, distinct even from Spain, its culturally affiliated neighbour. The package of six films assembled by New Delhi's Instituto Camoes, presented by Chennai's Indo Cine Appreciation Foundation (Film Chamber, May 9-12) indicates new directions taken by Portuguese filmmakers in the past seven years. They explore the past and the present, the real and the surreal, comedy and tragedy, in a desperate attempt to make meaning out of life and relationships in today's world.

Oscar nominated "The Miracle According Salome" (Mario Barroso, 2004) gives the biblical tale a new form when Salome, the country girl turned whore in Lisbon, is drawn into the `miracle' of the Virgin Mary being sighted by shepherds in a time of political ferment. "Spousals of God" (Joao Cesar Monteiro, 1998), an ironic fable, follows the adventures of a hobo from a wintry park where he is gifted with riches by an angel in disguise.

Gothic horror, Portuguese style "Who are You?" (Joao Botelho, 2001) has Maria, the sickly child, lost in a brew of ghosts, bloodstain, Inquisition, torture, plague, desecration of tombs and martyrdom. For zany comedy watch ``Trafico" (1998) by the same director, where the husband traffics with arms, the wife with the arts, and young Jesus finds a treasure on the beach. "Black Shoes" shows men and women caught up in a mess of lies, deceit and avarice, as the physically abused wife hires a contract killer to get rid of her husband. But can she live happily ever after with a pusillanimous lover?

The last film brings the vision of Portugal's celebrated veteran in an awards-winning "I'm Going Home" (2001). Manoel de Oliveira's protagonist is an old theatre comedian who lives for his grandson. The child has been in his charge after the car crash that killed his wife, son and daughter-in-law. The man struggles also to maintain his high ideals in the choices he makes at work between commerce and art. Just as he is about to start on a role of his lifetime in a screen adaptation of Joyce's "Ulysses," he forgets his words, lines, the whole text. Layered with film-within-film textures, rich in performances starting with Michel Piccoli in the lead, "I'm Going Home" also has Catherine Deneuve, John Malkovich and Isabel Ruth making special appearances.

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