Ema is a very attractive but innocent girl, so pretty that cars crash in her presence. Young marries Dr. Carlo Paiva, who she is not attracted to, but is her father's friend. They move to ... See full summary »
Manoel de Oliveira
Cécile Sanz de Alba,
Luís Miguel Cintra
A young man is facing death of his mother. A petty corruption at his job leads to him being framed and robbed of his only desire to climb mountains in Himalayas, as his father did and where... See full summary »
A meditation on civilization. July, 2001: friends wave as a cruise ship departs Lisbon for Mediterranean ports and the Indian Ocean. On board and on day trips in Marseilles, Pompeii, Athens... See full summary »
Manoel de Oliveira
Filipa de Almeida,
A room in Lisbon. A man dreams and establishes a theory to make it come true. This film is based on The Book of Disquiet , the posthumous work of the Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa. It ... See full summary »
Cláudio da Silva,
one of the most interesting movies of the past couple of years, but perhaps for all the wrong reasons.
João César Monteiro was known for his excruciatingly lengthy movies and awkward humour, but nothing could prepare both the audiences and the critics for his outrageous 'Branca de Neve'! A huge debate followed its debut, it has been labeled everything, from a masterpiece to a fraud and four years later it still angers and baffles a great deal of people. The first shocker is the movie itself. All of us have heard of and may recall with fondness the silent movie era, but 'Branca de Neve' introduces us to the 'radiophonic movie' concept, that is, a movie that has no image at all! Most of the movie leaves the viewer staring at a monotonous black canvas, interrupted only by a few occasional and might I add, very brief still shots. The story itself is an adaptation of Robert Walser's 'Schneewittchen' and the dialog between the characters happens in complete darkness, like a radio play. But a very strangely acted one, like some weird cross between the melodramatic characters of 'Frei Luís de Sousa' and some cheap soap opera.
The outcome is bizarre and in my opinion truly unbearable. I have sat through César Monteiro's 'Comédia de Deus' and laughed at his 'Bodas de Deus' but I couldn't bear to watch the whole movie. Believe me, I tried! I have no problem with slow paced movies, Andrei Tarkovksy and István Szabó are two of my favorite directors, but 'Branca de Neve' is the ONE movie that crushed my will, and in accordance with a famous Hitchcock quote, the endurance of my bladder! This movie is practically unwatchable. But does it really matter?
Which brings us to the second part of the controversy raised by this movie: the art versus entertainment debate. I remember reading an article reviewing this movie that referred to it as 'a mindf***'. And indeed it is! It's like the director wanted to tease us, play with our conceptions and prejudices, defy our notion of what a movie is or should be. I'll give it credit for that, it's a very provocative movie, but again, it's unwatchable, maybe it's a piece of 'higher art', but, as movies go, it's a terrible movie in all respects.
The first question that popped into my mind when I realized the movie had no image was the budget issue, because this movie was sponsored by ICAM, that is, with the tax-payers' money. Where did the money actually go to? There's practically no camera work, unless you discount the lonesome two or three images here and there. The cast is small and all they needed was a recording studio to act out their lines. What happened to the funds? It just adds to the outrage!
So I have mixed feelings about 'Branca de Neve'. I like the concept and the thought that César Monteiro, in the true spirit that always made his movies so provocative, is trying to mess with our brains, gloves off, in a very unsanitary way. But this movie may be pushing the 'trying to be too artsy for its own sake' edge. I also think it was a terrible waste of resources, ICAM's sponsorship could've been spent in other ways, especially since money seems to be an issue as of late.
Final word: do watch this movie if you can and even if you can't endure the whole thing. If you are amused by it or if you feel insulted, I'm sure João César Monteiro will be pleased, wherever he may be. And should this fail to satisfy you, well, there's always Walt Disney's.
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