Um Filme Falado (2003) Poster

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It's greatness lies in the subtlety of its undercurrents
Howard Schumann18 July 2005
In A Talking Picture, 96-year-old Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira takes us on a journey through history, making us acutely aware of our heritage and, in the process, conveying an acute sense of what we have lost and what we have become. Part travelogue, part comedy, and part drama, the film lulls us into a state of blissful contentment, then hits us with a wake up call that seems culled from yesterday's headlines. On the surface, Oliveira's 36th film is simple, but its greatness lies in the subtlety of its undercurrents. As we travel on a cruise ship to visit some of the most historic landmarks on the planet, bathe in the warmth of the Mediterranean sun, and meet some interesting people along the way, Oliveira brings into sharp focus the treacherous nature of the journey in which we are embarked.

Set in July 2001, an attractive history professor from the University of Lisbon, Rosa Maria (Leonor Silveira), takes her seven-year-old daughter Maria Joana (Filipa de Almeida) on a cruise of the Mediterranean from Portugal to Bombay, India where she is planning to meet her husband, an airline pilot. The ship travels from west to east, symbolically depicting the direction in which the balance of the world is shifting. Along the way, they visit the Acropolis and the Parthenon, Mt. Vesuvius and the ruins of Pompeii, the Sphinx and the Pyramids, and the Hagia Sophia, among others. Rosa Maria, who has lectured about the sites but never visited them before, explains the various sites to her attentive and inquisitive daughter who is constantly asking questions.

The little girl asks questions such as "What is a myth?", "Was there really such a Goddess?", "What is a legend?", "What did people do here?". Her mother does her best to interpret history and myth for her daughter telling her stories about Prince Henry and the legendary Portuguese King Sebastian, the mermaids who swam alongside ships to encourage the sailors to explore the unknown, and the muse that inspired poets. She tells her about the Temple of Apollo and the statue of Athena that protected the city and the stories that accompanied the destruction of Pompeii. Like Maria Joana we are mesmerized by what we see, yet each scene is tinged with such a pervasive air of sadness that it seems to suggest we are getting one last look.

The only transition from port to port is the often-repeated view of the prow of the ship slicing through the calm waters. Along the way, the two meet solitary travelers: an old fisherman in Marseilles whose wife died and whose children moved away, a celibate Orthodox priest at the Acropolis, and an older unmarried actor in Egypt. Rosa and her daughter are the only family with children seen in the film. The second part of the film consists mainly of a dinner conversation between the ship's captain John Walesa (John Malkovich), an American of Polish background and three celebrity passengers: Delphine, a French businesswoman (Catherine Deneuve), Francesca, a former Italian model (Stefania Sandrelli) and Helena, a Greek singer (Irene Papas). In "My Dinner With John", the women discuss their personal lives as well as their views on history, art, politics, and civilization and we are treated to a lovely Greek song sung by Irene Papas.

Each talk in his or her own language yet everyone seems to understand each other perfectly. Soon the suave captain invites the professor and her daughter to join the dinner group and gives the little girl a gift of a Muslim doll with a veil over her face, making us aware of who has not been invited to the table. From here, the film veers in an unpredictable direction that seems inevitable only upon repeated viewing. The camera is static throughout and since the film is driven by ideas rather than story line or character development, the journey at times can be a bit tiresome. Yet A Talking Picture is a lovely film filled with moments of beauty and grace. Like the passage of our own life, it is the totality of the experience that is important, an experience that can only be reflected upon from a distance and weighed in the context of the events that are transforming the civilization and culture we once thought would never change.
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A passage to India
jotix10018 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
It is clear that a Manoel De Oliveira film is not for everyone, not that he has ever tried. The cinema of this director is introspective, as it doesn't aim to please the masses. "Um Filme Falado", his 2003 satisfying movie, is perhaps one of his most accessible.

When we first meet Rosa Maria, a university professor, who is embarking on a long trip to Bombay to join her husband for a vacation, we watch her on board with her daughter, Maria Joana, a beautiful child with an inquisitive mind. As the ship goes to the open sea, Rosa Maria is heard explaining to the girl the meaning of the monuments in Lisbon they are passing by.

The next ports of call include Marseilles, Naples, Athens, Istambul, Cairo and Aden. In every place the ship stops Rosa Maria and Maria Joana take side trips to see the interesting sites that although touristy, they hold a special significance and serve to advance the story. After all, Rosa Maria being a teacher knows well what she is talking about. In each destination they encounter a kind person, like the Orthodox priest in the Parthenon, or the Portuguese actor by the Piramids.

We also see in some of the ports of call a famous woman boarding the ship, but they don't appear until the last segment of the picture, when the captain, John Walesa, invites Rosa Maria and her daughter to join him at his table where Delphine, Francesca, and Helena, are sitting. Each woman talks in her native language, and yet, they all seem to understand what each one is saying. This serene moment doesn't prepare us for the surprise we are about to receive. Since we have no idea about what is coming, we remain in a state of shock because of the suddenness in how things happen. In a way, the film parallel life, as it is difficult to understand why things happen they way they do. Also, the fragility of life itself is examined by Mr. De Oliveira in his own peculiar way.

The director has given us no inkling up to the last moment of the film that anything could be so totally wrong. The whole film has such a soothing quality and a peaceful beauty that when the unexpected happens we are caught completely unaware of it.

Leonor Silveira has worked with Manoel De Oliveira extensively. She has such a regal presence in everything she does and her beauty is the no nonsense kind. Her Rosa Maria is perfect. John Malkovich and Catherine Deneuve have also worked with the director before, but this is not their film, they just happen to be there at the end. Stefania Sandrelli and Irene Papas are also featured in the film. Ms. Papas makes a wonderful impression as she sings to the delight of all the passengers and the viewers.

"Um Filme Falado" shows a Manoel De Oliveira at his best. He has produced a gorgeous film that requires our undivided attention.
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A Good Film, Candid Camera Work, Real Life Portrayal.
Mark19 April 2004
I saw this film at the Hong Kong International Film Festival 2004 and enjoyed it. There I've said it, only the second person to post a positive review for this film. Allow me to explain....

I don't consider this film to be boring, unless you are trying to compare it to the latest digitally blurred, DTS surround, multi million dollar blockbuster. You are missing the point of this film. It's about reality! When you next come out of the cinema or leave the TV with it's DVD surround system, having gorged on Hollywoods finest, go outside, get on a bus/train/plane. Take a seat and really observe those people around you. Then remember the characters in this film and you will notice that, lo and behold, parents do speak to their children in the way that Leonor Silveira speaks to her daughter. And that her daughter, played by Filipa de Almeida, saying over and over "Why is that.....?" is a true reflection of real life.

The interruptions to the history lessons of the mother, by the Greek Orthodox priest and the Portugese actor are also totally plausible and well observed by both actors and director together. As a 10 year old on a family holiday to historic Italy, having the same history lessons as shown in the film, I too bumped into a british actor/entertainer. He was on holiday with his wife in Rome, when my father asked him if he was in fact an actor. He said that he was, politely introduced his wife and shook hands with myself and my sisters, leaving us gobsmacked to have met a 'real' star.

As for the performances of the euro-stars in this film, again I say look at real life. I live in Hong Kong where 7 million of the population speak cantonese as their first language. In work and social situations both the chinese and westerners hold multi-lingual conversations. And I have been in situations in France and elsewhere in europe, when converstaions take place in more than one language. And yes, they are 'disjointed', but they do exist and occur a lot more often than people think.

Finally, the film itself. It is easy to watch and enjoy. The progress may seem a little 'regimental', but after all a day consists of a sunrise and a sunset. So for this film to punctuate each destination with a boat departure and the bow of the ship plowing the waves, does move things along. The ending was a bit short and sharp, but still reflected the style of the rest of the film in its realism. No long drawn out scenes of pandemonium or touching 'overacted' farewells.

So Hollywood please take note of this film, it may not pay big money, it may not get the sensive receptors buzzing. But, it shows realism, a flare for observation, and some boring bit's. Real life is like that, sorry if that is a shock to any celluloid junkies out there.

Rating 7.5/10
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Great cast for a great script.
sgurgolo3 May 2004
This movie isn't going to shock you. This movie is not going to "entertain" you. This movie is going to softly talk to you, while cruising around the most beautiful places of the world, and will bring you to a sudden, explosive, unexpected ending. I never saw a De Oliveira movie before this, although he is considered by Italian critics one of the most important directors alive. Well i guess i should check his previous works (and there's a lot to see). This is a film for those who want to FEEL the script and listen to interesting conversations that sometimes can enlighten and other times, well, the viewer can feel the deep depression of a reality that gives us no choice but live as we are, no hope to leave our little selves to come to something bigger. And then again, who wouldn't want to sit and have dinner talking with Stefania Sandrelli, Catherine Deneuve, Irene Papas and a charming Captain Malkovich? (And the fact that they're all speaking in their own languages makes their pout pourri of philosophy and humour really UNIVERSAL). This filmed talked to me, while i could do nothing but sit still and wait and listen and watch and then give one of the most sincere applauses i ever could give to a movie. "You'd better grab a hold of something, it's simple but is true. If you dont stop to smell the roses now they might end up on you!" (HUSKER DU)
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A nice movie
derf74 February 2006
I guess everyone has a right to his/her own opinion, and so the commentator(sp?) above. This is not an action movie, not based on any real underlaying "physical" story. But i liked it because it's kind of motionless, but has a sense of meaning to it - like you'll kind of know, there's someone intelligent behind it, and it's not necessarily driving an agenda down your throat. It's like spending time with a good friend (or wife, if you have the one your supposed to have), when you don't really have to do or say anything. This movie is something like that.

(Liking or disliking this does not say anything about your intelligence; you like it or not, and that's the end of it. I enjoyed it.)
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the movie is like the sea itself
samtropy20 August 2005
I highly recommend this movie for anyone with an open mind and patience. My own enjoyment of it was further enhanced by my love of languages, zeal for seeking subtext, and boredom with conventional film clichés. If you're like me in this respect, I think you'll enjoy this film. If you're looking for a thrill ride or expect one of the standard narrative forms, you will not.

The film behaves like the sea it frequently depicts. Lilting, undulating, splashing, and crashing randomly on its poetically simple story line: a Portuguese woman and her daughter set out on a cruise to meet their husband/father in Bombay. Along the way, they stop in various cities and have conversations about the history of the places they're visiting.

At first viewing, the films seems like a mixture of luxuriously long shots of ships and waves, stilted conversations between wooden actors, random scenes with strange editing, and almost no musical score. But the more I think about the film, the more the subtle meanings haunt me. The film was not an "upper", but I can't help smiling when I think about it.

I think the point was this: Through its academic recitation of history, a mother's explanations to her child, and an unsettling dose of present day reality, this movie contextualizes life in a way no other film I know of does. Good and Evil brought full circle? The grand flaw of humanity laid bare? An excercise in audience-manipulation? Whichever: Very rewarding.
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Great film
michelerealini21 September 2005
This is another Great film of 97year old Portuguese director Manoel De Oliveira (a legend!). It's incredible how this director still creative is... His stories are simple and deep. He demonstrates that with a low budget you can always do strong films, with good lines.

A mother takes her daughter to a cruise trip through Mediterranean Sea. She teaches her story and gets in touch with three European women and the ship's captain. Everyone speaks his own language... That's why it's a "Talking picture", a meeting among people of several cultures. The dialogue follow the everyday life. The film seems to be very calm and seems to tell simply a friendship story, until the final scene... Where we remain totally surprised.

A small, cultivated and poetic picture, from an European big director.
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Stone Paired
frankgaipa8 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
De Oliveira belongs to a shrinking number of living filmmakers identifiable from a brief sequence, a few frames, of any film. I'm not sure who the others are, though certainly Rohmer, maybe the newer Kurosawa, and probably Kiarostami if he didn't have so many imitators, his own children among them.

The precisely titled A Talking Picture begins as Rosa and her daughter, Maria Joana, stand at the rail of a Mediterranean liner about to depart. Just as wavers ashore, who for distance seem frozen in motion to this goodbye ritual, begin to slip away, Rosa and Joana's fellow passengers walk around them backwards to the ship's motion, trying to hold sight of their well-wishers for as long as possible. No one looks at the mother and daughter. Mother and daughter don't move. Like stones paired in a stream, they break yet don't halt the flow. Calmly, with a smile, continuing to preen Joana's long hair Rosa continues her dialog. We know the dialog hasn't just begun, because Joana's questions are so acute, because she's so clearly her mother's daughter. But in another sense, things do start right here. Mother and daughter have a past, yet the artifice does not: the film is circular. To De Oliveira's naysayers, I suggest watch at least these opening minutes immediately after the film's final frames. If you can bear it, re-watch every line and image of Rosa's long instruction knowing what will happen.

I'm afraid it's all too fresh in mind to trust myself to offer much more beyond random thoughts. Though I read only three of the four languages (no Greek), I caught on immediately that each at the Captain's table spoke her own language. Aside from Malkovich, who mixes French and English when speaking to Deneuve, they, if I didn't miss, don't even inject common Anglicisms. The effect was so intriguing I'm grateful De Oliveira left me time to think Babel before Malkovich cued it. The symbolism in Joana's Arab doll may seem too heavy, but at the same time it encompassed the sometime tragedy of chance. Rosa's top of the head example of a doll taken away, with which she explains war to Joana, may have been what sent Joana back. Just the mention of a doll, I mean: not that Joana ran back because of anything to do with war.

There's no such thing as an objective definition of war. Rosa's needs examination, against the rest of the film and against actuality. If hers is also De Oliveira's definition, then all the more so. But I'm not going to try to do it here. I'm not even going to try to decide whether the film or De Oliveira equate war with terrorism.

Like every De Oliveira film, A Talking Picture is quietly musical. What I mean is even with the sound turned off, or with Papas and the instrumentals removed: the edits are musical. "Listen" to the hard beat of the ship's bow punctuating the flow. Appreciate the asymmetrical rhythm that shunts Malkovich and ladies mostly to the film's final third. Who is chorus and who verse, Rosa or Joana?

Two silly De Oliveira anecdotes:

A screening at my local film festival of another misunderstood De Oliveira film -- I think it may have been The Letter -- set what may be a festival record for loud running battles in the audience: "Stop kicking my seat back!" "I'm not!" "You are so!" At least four separate disputes ran on and on in different corners of the medium-sized screening room. Why that film? Why De Oliveira? I've no idea. But as I was on my way out, one of the ever-present festival matrons revealed to me that she hadn't gotten the film at all. The quietly inane dialog, from one character, though I'd known it immediately for hilarious dead-on satire, she'd attributed to the nearly ninety-year-old De Oliveira's finally losing touch. She actually used the word "senile."

Don't know if it was the same year, but the one in which the same festival gave De Oliveira a lifetime achievement award, unlike most visiting directors he attended as many other directors' films as he could manage in his few days at the festival. Seemed like every film I attended, there he was. Once I looked round and discovered him right behind me. Instead of sitting up rigid as many people that age seem to for fear of displacing a vertebra, he slouched down like a teenager, legs sprawled into the aisle, clearly absorbed by whatever was showing.
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The most interesting vacation i've ever had.
primate116 June 2004
Great movie. It was absolutely delightful to see some of the most important places in our history and to listen to such great explanations. I specially liked when the little girl asked her mother for the meaning of some words that, even though we use a lot in every day conversation, almost no one knows its precise meaning. I understand the ending is a clear political (or civil) message to the audience, and i give de oliveira credit for being so brave, but i think he might have over-simplified the issue of terrorism. A word to the argentine film student who wrote that this movie was worthless: please drop out of school.
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This is a good film, I did not find it boring
MarieGabrielle17 February 2006
contrary to many of the reviews. I especially agree with the reviewer from Hong Kong, who stated that this is indeed, similar to real life, and he is in a multi-cultural city, where many languages are spoken.

Although I am from the U.S., I have traveled, and have experienced similar situations wherein people are acquainted. I guess one of the problems is that in the U.S., unless you are in one of the coastal cities, you are not familiar with multi-culturalism. This is sad, because I feel that Hollywood caters to the lowest common denominator in America (In Paris, for example, I do not think they would market "The Dukes of Hazzard"). I for one am tired of films which cater to the 12-17 year old demographic, or just the generally ignorant masses.

John Malkovich is interesting, and Leonor Silveira portrays a professor, traveling with her daughter. The cruise departs from Lisbon and is to arrive in Bombay, sometime later. We see some exquisitely filmed scenery, Apollo, Pompeii, Cairo.

Malkovich is the ship's captain, and has guests of honor at his table including the lovely Catherine Deneuve, Stefania Sandrelli, and Irene Pappas. Each woman represents a different culture, and they exchange ideas and ideologies with Malkovich. This is a very interesting and realistic portrayal of people's varying impressions. They discuss Greece, the origins of language, and religious ideology.

At one point Malkovich invites the professor, Silveira, and her daughter(Filipa de Almeida) to join his group at the table. He also purchases a doll at one of the ports of call, in Morocco, I believe, and there is a parallel story of countries, politics, and possessions, for which the doll is a metaphor.

You will see at the end of the film the significance of the doll, and the allegory it represents. Quite a good story, and a relief from the usual American movies we are bombarded with.
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lots of talking
Charbax3 October 2003
Warning: Spoilers
I enjoyed this movie a lot at its screening at the Venice Film Festival! It is a fun thing to remember, that the little girl main actress in this film was really crying in the lap of her real mother after the movie was over and while there was a standing ovation. It must have been the first time she'd have seen the finished film.

* spoilers maybe ahead *

Absolutely extraordinary guiding through some Historical places by the mediteranean sea. It's in portuguese.

They speak several languages on a boat. John Malkovich is the awesome captain on that boat. And there you see him talk for hours with Catherine Deneuve and some other actresses. They talk about civilisation, history, languages, society... lots of interesting stuff!

As some I heard the opinion from they though this film was badly boring in its talking and in its trying to teach us a lesson in all from the history of Europe, good manners, communication and so forth.

But I enjoy a lot when a movie obviously tries to teach me a lesson in such things. Be it supposed to be common knowledge, seeing that orthodox priest talk at the Parthenon, see the two main characters talk and learn through the historical places is very interesting.

Most importantly I find the cinematography in this movie very beautiful, specially when they talk on the boat and do stuff on the boat.

I rate this movie 8/10, at least..
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Michael Wolfcarius3 March 2005
Never mind the historical documentary or political education we are offered along the ride, this is an example of the craziest film-making in history. If this had been a one-man show of a 96-year old I would not criticise it however, hundreds of people (of supposed quality) worked on this production and it seems no-one dared speak to the man to question his view. I'm sorry but having made 16 movies since 1990 at his age, you cannot expect much to come out if no-one is prepared to be honest. There are some worthy things but on the whole this really is the worst movie I have ever seen (and I was not alone - my wife, three Portuguese friends including one fan, and one film critic totally agree) and my only 86 year old musician grandmother would too and believe me we are all open to all kinds of films. If the 7-8 ratings gets justified just because it is a script showing "reality" then it must be by people who have never seen any other films about reality, try Iranian cinema to start with, you will not see anything as bad as this and if you're lucky even some really good stuff. Every person was fake and corny except the girl and the priest (who still ended up speaking as if he was rehearsing for a Guide du Routard film. The famous actor's all behaved as if they were about to die, the dialogue about languages in Europe was childish and there was no conviction in the texts. The mother seemed more to be educating a pupil not talking to her daughter. There were some more subtle parts, the importance of the husband (don't touch me I'm married and I have Portuguese pride)was very original. The french subtitles translated the reason for not diffusing the bomb being that no-one could read the instruction manual (think the translator knew he had to do something to help this film) The gossip of whether the famous actors we're talking about their own lives. If this had been on TV no-one would watch. Unfortunately he has never again done something as good as Aniki Bobo, his first real film, and now that he's at the "reverting back to a child" age he probably never will, still he deserves respect. There is one other person who has never recovered from a good start - Luc Besson, who has a good chance of turning into the world's worst famous film-maker.
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cliché-ridden juvenile pseudo-intellectual babble
ike-3523 November 2003
Warning: Spoilers
I strongly disliked this movie. It was a waste of time, and I would not recommend it. My reaction to it, during its viewing, varied from finding it mildly annoying, to quite infuriating.

Things being relative, I do not know what qualifies as a "spoiler". Although I do not reveal crucial plot elements, I discuss to some small extent what the movie talks about; so, please be warned about what comes next.

This movie is literally a "talking picture", and the location of the action is sometimes just a pretext. This is not the problem, though. The problem lies in the content of all that talking. Initially, it is restricted to a history lecture inspired by sites visited along the Mediterranean coast, while later it goes on and on about philosophical/political/whatever issues. The first part gives the impression of being pedantic and somewhat patronizing. It tries to be didactic, but often confounds history with fiction or legend, without qualifying the latter as such. In the second part, the level of discourse goes all the way from reciting the commonplace, to being juvenile and just plain silly! The core ideas are for the most part quite simplistic, often pure clichés, served in a pretentious faux-intellectual wrapper. They also exhibit huge political and cultural bias, which makes them sound even more hollow, and, arguably, at times questionably motivated.

As far as the acting is concerned, the film is a disappointment. The actress in the leading part, Leonor Silveira, gives new meaning to bad acting; she delivers her history recitations dryly, as if reading passages out of a middle-school history book. The little girl is cute; however, the initial cuteness of those incessant "Why mommy...?"'s becomes really annoying after a while. Catherine Deneuve, John Malkovich, and the other actors are trying their best, but inadvertently fall short, because of the poor script; however, the polyglot setting they are involved in is indeed an interesting idea, albeit inadequately exploited. Of all the actors, I would single out Irene Papas, who, despite the unfortunate content of her lines, shows a certain naturalness of performance, in the idiosyncrasy, mannerisms and intonation of her native tongue.

All in all, this film is very disappointing, in my opinion. The fact that it comes out of the European art-house festival circuit raises high expectations, which it fails to measure up to. Perhaps, instead of pondering which gender's rule the E.U. would be better off under, the Portuguese, Italian and French producers should concern themselves more with what European taxpayers' money is spent on... IMHO.
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Great movie-Hit so close to home
ano_nimass1 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
**** Potential spoiler alert - My comments may provide a tangential hint of inflection points in the movie ****

Being a native of India and living in the US, this movie hit so close to home on so many counts. Incredible movie!

* Feels refreshingly unscripted, which is very liberating because it lets the viewer become a part of the unfolding story without being led by the nose thru it.

* The conversation at the captains table made perfect sense for me, given the babel that is India - 1000s of languages, yet holding together as a perfectly functioning anarcho-democracy!!!

* The deliberate decision by the mother to go by ship from Europe to India, discovering the world at a deliberate laid back pace, taking several weeks when she could just fly there in 10 hrs. By coincidence, I've been researching for several months just such a journey, principally for my daughter.

* We've directly experienced that effects of history that's discussed in the movie - chiefly the influences of Portuguese, English, French, Turkish, Arab, and lately, American ...

* The devastating effects of mass-scale violence by "remote control." Again, the story of real peoples' lives both in India and in the US, and of course of late it seems, world wide ...
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Discover Common Roots, Common Passions
Marcin Kukuczka30 March 2014
Manoel de Oliveira's film, which I have seen on the big screen recently, has appeared as something thoroughly unpredictable and surprising alike. One word, however, appears primordially: EDUCATIONAL. Although you may perceive its educational aspects from different standpoints, three dimensions occur to evoke as primarily unique: geographical, cultural and social.

It seems inevitable to state at the beginning that the movie is far clearer to understand for the European viewers than for the other ones. Meanwhile, with the very opening shot at Lisbon, Portugal, two purely Portuguese characters set the tone for the film but, at the same time, prompt assumptions: what this is going to be all about. Maria Rosa (Leonor Silveira) with her daughter Maria Joana (Filipa de Almeida) set off for the journey to India in order to meet the husband/father. As they visit different places in the Mediterreanian of tremendous historical/geographical interest and significance, there is a contradictory undertone. It is particularly expressed in the way mother speaks to her daughter. In spite of the fact that she is an educated person at the university who wants to see the places on her own, what does such a learned stuff serve in mother-little daughter talks? Meanwhile, the places, mute witnesses of glorious past, become their inspirational 'characters' including Pompei, Istanbul, Cairo and foremost, the city of Athens. There, they meet people, particularly an Orthodox priest who explains some complex facts of religious/historical/architectural importance. A scene worth noting is their visit at Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. In some moments, the film becomes a guide book on screen. But geography somehow appears to correspond to history and that is where its purpose is served...

The movie is supplied with cultural and social dimension when four supporting characters get on board the ship: three women and one man. Not only the fact that they are played by magnificent cast does supply the scenes with absorbing vitality but also the contents of their meeting (mind you) at a table which occurs to symbolize equality and openness to talk: a French Delfina (Catherine Deneuve), an Italian Francesca (Stefania Sandrelli), a Greek Helena (Irene Papas) and an American of Polish ancestry Captain Walesa (John Malkovich). Although their speak their own mother tongues, they can communicate perfectly and understand each other tremendously well. Note their names that carry significant meanings. And what do they talk about? Anything that may be interesting and boring at the same time: something that, on the one hand, serves the plot perfectly well and, on the other hand, misses the point. But the excellent camera-work and the performances beautifully allow a viewer be involved in these scenes.

One note on camera-work. Due to mostly static camera, they are first depicted together within the frame of the screen, as if visually, any viewer is an observer. Once Maria Rosa with her daughter join them at the table, we get closeups. Consequently, we turn up perceptional closer, amongst them. The pinnacle of emotions that their scene at the table is when Helena sings a beautiful song in Greek, a song that sounds like a manifest of identity and pride of greatness.

But the harmony that the Europeans could find is interrupted. Although the film presents a dangerous political aspect here, it does not fall into the temptation of being some judge on recent history, particularly the 2001 WTC tragedy. In all this, it presents a human desire, a human situation, a human tragedy. What would you do if someone took the doll you love so much...hears little Maria Joana from her mother...

The powerful effect of the finale leaves a viewer speechless...not through visual effects that would stun a viewer but through something that the film manages to inspire: empathy.
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Extremely Boring
lechuzin8 August 2004
Where did that 8 rating come from? Must be someone with a wishful attempt to get viewers. I refuse to waste more time even reviewing it. Stay home and read a book. Surely you will be better of. IMDb requires you to write @ least ten lines of comments and that is exactly what I am doing. For the sake of anyone who might take the time to go ever these lines before deciding whether or not to see it. I have not sat through such kind of film for a long, long time. There is definitively a waste of talent and resources used in this film. Literally I mean it!!! Somehow I felt that they were trying to demonstrate their superiority over the viewers, in a flagrant way, and get away with it. There is no value whatsoever in this movie and if there is it escapes me. I take that back there is value in it.

Once you are done viewing it you realize how important is time and even when we allocate time for purposes of pure entertainment, and just that one has to chose wisely. I regret not spending such time watching another movie instead. This is the first time I review a movie on IMDb and I am taking the time, as I said before, to spare someone the torture.
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Blissfully Uncritical Eurocentrism
SDQ23 November 2006
There are many opinions listed here about the film itself from technical or artistic points of view or about whether it is interesting or boring etc.. My reaction is not about any of that. I have serious problems with this film's naive Eurocentric point of view, which, seems to me, adds up to a very troublesome and dangerous crusader mentality that breaks the world into a 'civilized' 'West' and the 'uncivilized' Rest. Don't misunderstand me, the idea is certainly not put in these many words, the film does have a nice politically correct surface --but simply look a bit deeper below the surface to see the way Africa is referred to, the direct and indirect ways 'Arabs' are pictured (not to mention the deeply ignorant way in which a whole world of Islamic cultures and civilizations are grouped under this term 'Arab' at one point), or the way the notion of civilization, its origins and its trajectory is depicted, the way terrorism is understood or pictured, and one can keep listing. Had this film been made in 1920s, I would have had less of a surprise reaction to it, but I mean, come on, we are talking 2003!

Consider the following excerpt for example. This is out of a scene where three main characters (three women, a Greek, an Italian, and a French -Papas, Sandrelli, & Deneuve, respectively) are having dinner with the ship's captain, an American man (Malkovich). You judge for yourself.

(French): Greece is still the cradle of civilization, and will be as long as the world goes around.

(Greek): It's a civilization that's been forgotten

(French): And with it fraternity and human rights, and the Utopian ideals of the French Revolution

(Italian): Which the United States later adopted

(American): And has reinforced

(Italian): Yes, but they're also being forgotten, as is happening on other continents, like Europe, not to speak of Africa!

(Greek): No civilization lasts forever…That's how Alexander the Great saw it when, under the influence of Aristotle, he decided to found a universal library… But what I find most curious is the case of the Arabs, who, having spread Greek culture in Europe and beyond, were the ones to destroy it, burning all the books in the blindness of their religious fervor.

(Italian): The beginnings of fundamentalism, which is everywhere today…

(Greek): What haunts the Arab world nowadays is the development of the West, with its many technical advances and scientific progress. This creates religious prejudice, which is what divides us…

PS, I know I said I won't explain, but for anyone who still takes seriously the story that the library was made by Alexander and then burnt by the Arabs, why not take a look at this Wikipedia entry: or better yet, at this article:
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A Mediterranean Tour
aliasanythingyouwant27 August 2005
A Talking Picture winds through the Mediterranean world at the leisurely pace of a tourist, taking in the sights, basking in the glow of civilization and its glories. Its director, Manoel de Oliveira, is not concerned with incident, with plot - he's concerned with ideas, with conversation. His movie is not called A Talking Picture for nothing; it is full of talking, some worth listening to and some not. Most of the worthwhile verbiage comes from a character named Rosa Maria (Leonor Silveira), a Portuguese history professor on a cruise with her young daughter (Filipa de Almeida). The mother-and-daughter are de Oliveira's device for presenting his ideas - the daughter asks elementary questions and the mother answers them, and through this simple back-and-forth, occasionally joined by other characters, de Oliveira creates the educational narration to go with his slide-show of the important sites of the extended Mediterranean world - Pompeii, The Acropolis, St. Sophia's, the Pyramids. Or maybe educational isn't the right word. De Oliveira doesn't seem as interested in informing us as he is in reminding us. The film doesn't take on any more of a professorial air than Rosa Maria does; Rosa Maria doesn't make lofty pronouncements and neither does the movie. The director's purpose is to share his appreciation for the myths, the legends, the monuments of Western Civilization, and he does so with the right kind of humbleness. It's only as the film reaches its climax that we begin to realize how darkened by uncertainty, even foreboding, de Oliveira's view of things is.

The film veers away from its pleasing, leisurely travelogue structure in the later passages, focusing instead on a group of rich, famous women entertaining, and being entertained by, the (presumably) charming ship's captain, played by the smug John Malkovich. It's here that some of the movie's charm falls away and it begins smelling of pompousness: the rich women all sit around chattering about themselves, making political observations, acting as mouthpieces for de Oliveira. The movie's whole sense of space becomes strangled in the ship's dining room; the expansive Mediterranean vistas are replaced by simply staged shots of Malkovich, Catherine Deneuve, Irene Papas and the Italian actress Stefania Sandrelli all sitting at the table being very witty (at least they think they are). The picture is saved in the end by Papas, whose character sings a lovely old Greek folk song, a song whose sad, simple melody seems a perfect ode to the civilization whose passing de Oliveira already seems in the process of mourning. Forces are at work to destroy the world de Oliveira loves: it's suddenly announced that the ship has a bomb on it, planted by terrorists at the last port-of-call.

The movie only becomes allegorical in the end, a sort of miniature Ship of Fools (take out the Porterian psychodrama and that's what you're left with) where the multilingual, erudite characters represent civilization and the bomb the looming specter of fundamentalism. For much of its run the film is less thematically over-bearing, less spatially shrunken. In its best moments it is barely more than a Discovery Channel documentary, a tour of the significant historic sites of the Mediterranean, but created by someone with a genuine sense of history, a love of civilization and all it stands for, and the ability to view things not politically or even morally but with the sagely eye of one who has made their peace with humanity (de Oliveira is almost a hundred after all). It's irrelevant whether A Talking Picture is good cinema or not - certainly there are better-staged movies - for what matters is not the form but the tone, the sense of embracing. The film's charms are modest but they're there, and they have nothing to do with the playing out of some dramatic story (when forced to deal with plot de Oliveira seems almost embarrassed). They have to do with loving words, loving places, loving ideas, and doing so unabashedly yet humbly.
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One of the most boring movies you'll ever see
Rami Neudorfer10 March 2004
Thankfully , the terrorist attacks ended the boring , multi-lingual dialog , when I could not stand it any more. The ancient director managed to bring together some of the finest actors in moviedom , each speaking his own language, having the most boring , pseudo intellectual conversations the screen has ever seen, in a cacophony of English , French, Greek and Portuguese and in between some elementary school level guided tours to famous cities along the Mediterranean. Some of the photography is indeed captivating , if you have never been to Pompeii or to Athens , then you might as well visit them on the screen. This is really a Horrible movie, shown at festivals around the world.

The emperor's new clothes.
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bad directing, bad acting, bad everything
cybermat308 June 2005
This movie is probably one of the worst that I ever got to see. First of all the dialogs are badly written and badly acted. Most of them are probably copied line by line from guide- books and from popularized history books, but delivered with the air that some deep philosophical message should be behind it. When the case isn't for advertising some touristic locations, the dialog becomes an inconsistent and ostentatious babbling in four languages also designed as some sort of deep meditation but due to the bad quality of acting and directing it becomes only pretentious and pitiful. The directing is in general extremely bad, for example one can always see that all the images from the ship are in fact made in a studio, and a very badly concealed one, not to mention all the blunders with outdoor shots, when one can see people on the street pausing and wandering what's going on, or the fact that he always shoots some cruise ships seen leaving harbors from afar, which are never the same ships, and at one point it is clearly visible that the ship is not even a passenger ship but a commercial one
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A very bad film...
junk-66411 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I struggle to understand how anyone can give this film more than (at most) two stars. The texts the actors have to speak are amongst the most stilted I have ever heard in a film (and I've seen a few shockers). Not only that, very little happens. There is no real story, none of the characters attract our sympathy in the slightest. And, as another reviewer has pointed out, stilted passages (which appear to be copied from slightly out-of-date guide books) are spoken by characters who appear here and there to give us some predigested geographical and historical information while the Acropolis, the Sphinx, Hagia Sophia etc. flit by.

You may a better idea of what I mean if I mention (spoiler!) that the dramatic high point of the film occurs when we wonder if a small dog attached to a boat by its lead will get dragged into the water as the boat sways to and fro.

Could it be that the bomb (sorry, another spoiler) at the end of the film is a cinematic metaphor for "bored to death"?
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PBS on the Posiedon...
ppetraitis10 October 2004
Warning: Spoilers
What a shame the producer hadn't the foresight to develop only the single plot theme of the young professor traveling with her child and experiences they had with strangers, et al. Instead, a lovely talented young actress is wasted in travelogue meanderings whilst we are given spotty 'guest star' shots of the three diva stars and their host (talk about smarmy captains)chatting in their native languages about philosophic coulda, woulda, shouldas. Perhaps, it was a wise decision to just blow the whole thing up in the end--more merciful. The audience cannot wait for the boom and the lights to come on again. Sad, because John M. has already proved his acting ability and directing ability to some extent, that he chooses to incorporate this unnecessary captain character into the plot who obviously is there just to promote his own ego. "Look at me, I know Catherine Deneuve and Irene Pappas and I speak and understand several languages, aren't I quite impressive?" Well, frankly, 'The Love Boat' offered more realism in terms of cruise ships and the goings on aboard them. John has proved what we always suspected--the captain's table conversation is a bore and the people there are only there because of who they are and what they've accomplished. Those extensive shots of the boat's prow plowing through the endless Mediterranean just get us all seasick. Hand me a barf bag. And, Irene, dear, stick to acting and give up the singing--it's never too late!
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Two thumbs down
maryjpierce9 April 2005
I sat through the first 45 minutes of this film thinking "my goodness, if the pacing were any slower I might lapse into a coma". Even though the scenes were sweet and beautifully shot, it was a complete mystery where the story was headed. I was intrigued by the main character's travelogue- the stories she told were of interest to someone like me who has not been to that part of the world. Similarly, the discussions at the Captain's table among he and the three women were interesting, but no more so than rambling chatter one hears at the average dinner party. I am in amazement that Mr. Malkovich agreed to play the role he did- his lines were stilted and somewhat hackneyed. At the end, when I finally did see where the plot ended up, I was sorry I stuck with it as long as I did. I don't remember the last time I felt so disappointed by a film!
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Worst movie I've seen this year
bordionegol10 May 2004
I watched this movie during the Mar Del Plata's International Film Festival 2004 here in Argentina... it's hard to explain the sensation i had when the lights turned on in the theater... i couldn't belive how bad is this movie and the way it changes its genere in the end... Besides while i was watching it i was thinking: - Please some one to stop this little girl making stupid questions!!!... I'm a film student here in Argentina and i think this movie is not even at the level of the projects we do here in the 1st year.... except for the money that has been spent for producing it...

Terrible movie... not recommendable at all

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A Work of Rare Genius
levin_melkins30 May 2006
A movie that really speaks for our generation. The director's attention to detail was unparalleled in all the movies that I have ever seen in my entire life. My ENTIRE life! The performances were stellar and moved me to tears. The artistic cinematography had me glued to my seat and the tight plot is reason enough to watch this eye-popping spectacle. This movie transcends genres in every possible way. I just could not get enough of the movie. I'm watching out for the sequel and will donate half my life's savings to the production of the director's next venture - as long as the little girl is cast in it. I'm sorry I would like to write more coherently and longer but my emotional body is still quivering from the impact of this fantastic movie - a jarring metaphor of what has become of our history, effortlessly gliding with unstoppable eloquence. Please excuse me while i go watch this AGAIN! Please please please go and watch this masterpiece and make your life complete. Oliviera has done the human race proud!
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