You won’t find many car chases or superheroes in the films of Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira. Considered to be the oldest active filmmaker (he will turn 100 later this year), the stuff of summer blockbusters just isn’t his style. What you will find are films that, while not very commercial, are worth their sometimes lengthy running times and languorous camera takes, according to John Ewing, who books films for the Cleveland Institute of Art’s Cinematheque and the Cleveland Museum of Art. “It isn’t as dry as it might first appear,” he says of a typical Oliveira film. “You’ll have moments of epiphany or striking things happening, which really kind of pull the rug out from under you.” Ewing, who assembled the festival of the director’s films screening at the Cinematheque and CMA through June 27, shared a few of his favorite Oliveira flicks.
The Letter Year: 1999 Plot: An unhappily married woman falls in love with a young artist and is torn between the temptations of the flesh and her wedding vows. Why See It: Though The New York Times criticized it for being out of touch with modern times, Ewing says, “I thought it was very haunting and moving. I think it’s one of his greatest films.”
A Talking Picture Year: 2003 Plot: A history professor takes her daughter on a boat tour of the Mediterranean and interacts with others on the boat, including characters played by Catherine Deneuve and John Malkovich. Why See It: For the shocking ending and a dinner scene with some truly awkward dinner conversation. “It kind of drives me crazy,” says Ewing.
The Cannibals Year: 1988 Plot: An operatic musical comedy that pokes fun at upper-class values, with some cannibalism thrown in for good measure. Why See It: “It’s so radical and bizarre,” exclaims Ewing. “If Quentin Tarantino did something like opera movies, he would direct something like ‘The Cannibals.’ ”
For a list of all movies, show times and ticket prices, call (216) 421-7450 or visit www.cia.edu/cinematheque