Teller of tense tales
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.