5 user 1 critic

Manôushe (1992)

Unrated | | Fantasy , Romance
In the darkness of a rural night, a gypsy clan gathers to mourn their beloved patriarch's in a ritual celebrated through music and dance.


Luiz Begazo




Cast overview:
Breno Moroni Breno Moroni
Drica Moraes
Thelma Reston Thelma Reston ... (as Telma Reston)
Alfredo Murphy Alfredo Murphy
Luyza Fevhuime Luyza Fevhuime
Julio Levy Julio Levy
Mabel Martin Mabel Martin
Los Romeros Los Romeros
Lélia Abramo
Candido Pires Candido Pires


In the darkness of a rural night, a gypsy clan gathers to mourn their beloved patriarch's in a ritual celebrated through music and dance.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Fantasy | Romance






Also Known As:

Manoushe: A Gypsy Love Story See more »

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Technical Specs

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User Reviews

Felliniesque and surreal, but also a bit clichéd and banal
3 May 2005 | by BrandtSponsellerSee all my reviews

The film begins at a gypsy funeral. An old man has died. His wife sits in a chair facing him, staring at him, as flamenco-inspired guitar music plays and we see a number of dances from other gypsies in the "clan". Eventually the camera circles around and around only the old couple, as we see the woman imagining the man alive again, young, then imagining herself young, too. As we focus on a pendant she's wearing, we go back in time, as the woman replays in her mind how she and her partner met in her village when she was a young girl and the man was traveling from town to town by himself putting on a kind of mime/magic/comedy show.

Manôushe is certainly a mixed bag. There are moments of excellence and a number of very unfortunate decisions. It's worth seeing if you're a fan of fantasy and the surreal, and at times its very Felliniesque, but it's important to watch with appropriately lowered expectations.

At least the first fifteen-minutes or so of the film feature a few pieces of music by Paco de Lucía. As would be expected, the songs are incredible. They build up a fantastic mood for the opening, punctuated by some interesting, very deliberately paced dancing. To this point, Manôushe feels more like a filmed version of a ballet. Once we go to the extended flashback, which takes up the next 45 minutes or so, we get another snippet of a fine Paco de Lucía piece, but after that point, as the film gradually becomes more Felliniesque, the music becomes unpleasantly cheesy. It's mostly a combination of synthesizers and very hokey percussion. This is all made worse by the contrast with the initially amazing score. From what I could tell, only de Lucía receives a composer credit, but it's difficult to believe that he wrote the later music.

Director Luiz Begazo is admirable in his aspirations of weirdness. The characters in the flashback gradually become more bizarre, until we're in full fantasy mode by the 45-minute mark. We first see a lot of the human characters in a church, complete with a Dom DeLuise-looking priest. At this point, some very interesting sound design enters the film, as dialogue is frequently drowned out by sound effects of animals and various environmental "atmospheres". Some of the sounds work as leit-motifs for some characters.

On the other hand, another problem due to contrast arises with the fantasy material. Although Begazo seems to be shooting for a strong surrealism, during the forest scenes he relies heavily on fantasy clichés, such as faeries, goblins and such. During the surrealist human interaction, another contrast highlights flaws in that the overall story, which is basically a romance, is very pedestrian and uneventful. Even the costume design, which is marvelously colorful and strange on the surface, turns out to be very traditional when you look at it analytically.

But still, I'd rather have wacky traditional costumes than non-wacky traditional costumes, and other aspects of the production design are pretty quirky without a traditional base. There's also some fantastic cinematography throughout the film, and especially the last sequence stands out as breathtakingly odd and beautiful.

The biggest flaw, however, is that the story just isn't very cohesive or engaging. It feels a bit like four or five mostly unrelated shorts strung together. You've got the gypsy dance/funeral opener, the Felliniesque small town portrait, the journey through the forest, the "climax", and the return to the modern setting. The climax should be somewhat suspenseful, but it's instead very bland. It probably doesn't help that there isn't much dialogue in the film, and there are long sections of posturing that seem more like choreography than plot. One of the more interesting sub-sections, involving the arrest and "torture" of the main male character and a simultaneous glimpse of the main female character's home is taken up and then abandoned within a few minutes. Beyond that, the man's mime/magic/comedy show is pretty banal, and the woman is pretty "blank" much of the time.

Like I said, it's a mixed bag. The strangest fact about Manôushe is that this is Begazo's only film according to the Internet Movie Database. Manôushe at least showed great promise for an interesting career. I wonder what happened to Begazo.

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