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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Beautiful movie at snail's paceJan. 23 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
I happened to see director Manoel de Oliveira's 2009 "Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl" last year, and now comes the legendary movie-maker's next movie.
"The Strange Case of Angelica" (originally released in Portugal in 2010; 107 min.) brings another slice of magic-realism from de Oliveira. Set in the Porto region, the movie brings the curious tale of Isaac, a Jewish-Portuguese photographer who is called in the middle of the night to photograph the just-deceased Angelica, a young woman who had just married. When taking pictures, Angelica strangely comes to life again through the camera lense. As Isaac later develops the pictures he has taken, Angelica comes to life again, and subsequelty also into his dreams, which seem real-life like to him. But is it a good dream or a nightmare? Separately, Isaac has a strong interest in taking pictures of the laborers working the farm fields in the area. How it all plays out (and how both those story lines are intertwined), I will leave up to you to discover. The movie moves at snail's pace, and that's meant as a compliment.
Just a reminder: Manoel de Oliveira was a crisp 101 years old when he wrote and directed this movie. Wow, just wow. But wait! There is more! This DVD comes with a bunch of extras, none more so than his very first movie, a 20 min. documentary made in 1931 called "Douro, Faina Fluvial", documenting the life and times of people working in and around the Douro river in Porto, yes the very same setting of this "Angelica" movie, now 80 years later! There is also an incredible interview with the director, made in March, 2010 when he was in the final editing process of the movie. Listen to him commenting on "Avatar", violence in movies for violence sake, John Ford, and many other juicy comments. What a great DVD all around, and not just for the intruiging "Angelica" movie. Not for anyone in a hurry, but highly recommended!
10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Beautiful in its contradictionsOct. 14 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
Patrick Rogers, DVD Verdict --The Strange Case of Angelica has a style similar to a 1930s black and white picture. It's very set oriented with a minimalist and continuous camera technique intent on portraying realism instead of style. And yet realism slowly gives way to expressionism, much in the same way as a film by Carl Theodor Dreyer (The Passion of Joan of Arc). It's also a film set in the 1950s, but with more than a few anachronisms. This tendency helps to infuse the film with its fairy-tale sensibilities. The director is blending the lines between past, present, and future. To further this feeling is a beautifully refined mise en scène that feels believable and lived in with how the characters move and interact within its confines. The color palette is dominated by vibrant and whimsical blues and greens to capture the playful nature of the narrative and its characters, while also reveling in darker stone hued greys and slates for the more somber aspect of this tale of death and vitality counterpoised.
Many people will not like The Strange Case of Angelica. They'll find it boring or pointless, if not bordering on indulgent, in the way the film takes its time to make a point...any point. And yet this isn't a film that should be a massive crowd pleaser. For people looking to see something unique, or to see a slightly offbeat love story instead of the more generic fodder we're all exposed to, then you might just find a little something to like here. Most importantly, Cinema Guild has released a splendid Blu-ray in order to make the film that much easier to digest and to appreciate.
The AVC/MPEG-4 1.85:1/1080p transfer is detailed though flawed. The richly varied color palette is beautifully rendered, while the visual effects employed by Oliveira are given an even great sense of clarity. There's also a great underlying grain structure to the whole affair. One negative aspect is that the black levels are too washed out or murky in some scenes, but it's not a constant. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is also elegantly understated. The film's simplistic yet potently effective score is given a great level of vibrancy in the front channels but never quite gets the push it needs in the back channels. The dialogue and sound effects are also crisp and audible but mostly dominate in the front channels.
But the real effort for this disc is put into the special features. First up, we are given Oliveira's first silent film, Douro, Faina Fluvial, with an all-new 2k restoration. It's great to view this short film not only for the obvious craftsmanship and ability to better trace the director's auteur status, but also because it puts Oliveira's long career and evolution into perspective. There's also a stellar commentary by film curator and critic James Quandt who theorizes and discusses in great detail the film itself, while also contextualizing Oliveira's oeuvre as a whole.
To round out the special features, there's a 63 minute documentary called Oliveira L'Architecte by Paulo Rocha which is a very intimate look into the life and career of the director. There's also a 35 minute conversation with Oliveira which, combined with these other features, will answer any last question you may have had about the man. There's also a theatrical film and an amazing booklet essay by Haden Guest, director of the Harvard Film Archive. You really couldn't ask for a better host of special features.
-Full review at dvdverdict.com
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Beautiful, Sad and MagicalJuly 20 2013
- Published on Amazon.com
The story could be anywhere in the world, and nowhere at the same time. I felt I am watching the lives and scenarios, that could never be, but it exists somewhere. Masterfully done magic realism, with excellent cinematography, minimalist scripts and characters. A mysterious poetry of a work, it touches on life, science, mysticism and in the end, leaves you with solemn surrender and resigned pondering. This is my first movie from Manoel De Oliveir's studio, and I plan to see his other works. The protagonist was superb, and so was the lady in charge of the boarding house. I find the last scene to be most beautiful--succinct, clear and final. Watch it, alone with someone else.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The strange case of Isaac the photographerApril 11 2013
- Published on Amazon.com
This would be a better title, as the film is primarily about an introverted photographer who becomes emotionally unstable after photographing a deceased married woman at the request of her family. The film only features "Angelica" for very short moments, and as others have pointed out, it is a very slow paced film with plenty of extra dialogue and lingering shots that do not necessarily add anything to the film. de Oliveira's Eccentricities of a Blonde-Haired Girl was under 70 minutes, and I feel this film could have benefitted from a shorter run time. Nonetheless, I found it a good character study of a man who turns his back on people in a crowded room, chooses to shoot with an old film camera in the digital photography age, and is interested in taking pictures of the few manual laborers still working the hillside of the Portuguese city of Porto. It is more a psychological film rather than the fantasy one the trailer makes it out to be. This becomes an overall sad tale of a man who appears to be so lonely, that he has to resort to fantasizing over someone he'll never have apart from viewing her in his photos. The cinematography has some nice touches (like the interior scene with the orange goldfish) and features a mostly bland color palette, with Isaac wearing very conservative black and white clothing throughout, and several older characters who do not wear the latest fashions. If it weren't for the children wearing backpacks in the trailer, you would think the film was set in the 1950's, but it is a contemporary Portuguese setting.