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The battle of the sexes? The forces of despair and seduction? On S. Miguel in the Azores, Rogério, a young man with old money, and his enigmatic wife Leonor host a garden party at their villa. The intriguing guests are an older unmarried couple, the philosophical and observant Irene, and Michel, a roué;. While Rogério and Irene talk, Michel and Leonor go down to the sea. The conversations upset Rogério and capture Leonor's imagination. Five years later, the four dine at the villa. Michel and Leonor again leave the other two. Intentions and undercurrents are subtle. One of the four proves strong, one weak, and two must choose. Wind and rain bring down the curtain on both acts. Written by
This was a disappointment: I had expected something sophisticated along the satirical lines of Jean Renoir's THE RULES OF THE GAME (1939), given its backdrop of an aristocratic fete. Instead, we're treated to a pretentious drama basically a four-parter in which the main characters are named after the respective actors playing them! It's also set on an island to drive further home the idea of an allegory but whose point is obscure, with the stream of ambiguous and heavy-going chatter being interrupted only by the occasional lyrical moment (the film, at least, looks good)!
International stars Michel Piccoli and Irene Papas appear as the elderly couple, while lovely Leonor Silveira (a recurring presence throughout the latter phase of Oliveira's career) is the younger woman and Rogerio Samora her jealous husband. They all try but are defeated by a meandering script which eventually sees Piccoli expressing his love for Silveira: naturally, this gives rise to arguments which are brought to an abrupt end by a gust of wind that ruins the younger couple's garden party. Five years later, things resume at a castle where the two couples are newly gathered: as before, there's no happy ending in sight for any of the characters plus nature puts in a disruptive appearance yet again by way of a downpour.
Having to do perhaps with the impossibly advanced age of the director himself, what I'd watched of Oliveira's recent work prior to this had been imbued with a sense of calm meditation which, unfortunately, has been replaced here by an unwieldy (and, frankly, tedious) rhetoric!
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