Teller of tense tales

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews -

THIS MOD­EST, in­trigu­ing film from Ma­noel de Oliveira, the 101-year-old Por­tuguese mas­ter, is book­ended by a young man telling a story to the woman sit­ting be­side him on a train. It’s the sort of struc­ture you of­ten en­counter in a macabre piece, but the film is an al­to­gether more in­sid­i­ous, un­clas­si­fi­able af­fair.

While work­ing in his un­cle’s shop, the hero spots a blonde girl in a nearby win­dow and falls desperately in love with her. Un­for­tu­nately, his fam­ily will not en­ter­tain any no­tion of a wed­ding. He duly heads off for the Cape Verde ar­chi­pel­ago with dreams of mak­ing his own for­tune. Var­i­ous fi­nan­cial and ro­man­tic rev­er­sals flesh out the film’s eco­nomic 65 min­utes.

Ec­cen­tric­i­ties is based on a 19th­cen­tury tale by José Maria de Eça de Queiroz – the Por­tuguese Zola – but, ren­dered in dry, se­date takes, it ap­pears to ex­ist in all eras (and none). The earth­i­ness of the orig­i­nal story is re­placed by a highly for­malised dis­ci­pline. Bank dis­as­ters are men­tioned, but the film takes place in heav­ily cur­tained Vic­to­rian rooms that con­tain no con­tem­po­rary technology.

The end re­sult is prop­erly dis­con­cert­ing and alien­at­ing. It’s not a ghost story. It is, how­ever, more than a lit­tle spooky.

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