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STRANGE CASE OF ANGELICA, THE (O ESTRANHO CASO DE ANGELICA)(director/writer: Manoel de Oliveira; cinematographer: Sabine Lancelin; editor: Valérie Loiseleux; cast: Ricardo Trêpa (Isaac), PilarLópez de Ayala (Angelica), Leonor Silveira (Mother), Luís Miguel Cintra (Engineer), Ana Maria Magalhães (Clementina), Isabel Ruth (Servant), José Manuel Mendes(Dr. Matias), Adelaide Teixeira (Madam Justina), António Reis (António, Angelica’s brother), Susana Sá(Rosa); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: François d’Artemare/Maria João Mayer/Luís Miñarro/Renata deAlmeida/Leon Cakoff; Cinema Guild; 2010-Portugal-in Portuguese with English subtitles)

“Stunningly magnificent spellbinding magical tale.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The legendary 101-year-old Portuguese master auteur, Manoel de Oliveira(“Belle Toujours”/”Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl”/”A Talking Picture”), who directed his first film in 1942, is at the top of his game, as he shoots this stunningly magnificent spellbinding magical tale, a romantic ghost story that offers a poetical vision on the limits and possible breakthroughs in film as an artistic experience–its image can outlive us. It’s about a reserved young Sephardic Jewish dilettante photographer, Isaac (Ricardo Trêpa, the director’s grandson), an intellectual and a loner who becomes haunted over a beautiful and wealthy deceased young pregnant Catholic bride, Angelica (PilarLópez de Ayala), who died under mysterious circumstances on her wedding day. Isaac is summoned to her family estate late one rainy night by the family foreman when the town’s professional photographer is out of town and he follows her mother’s wishes to photograph Angelica as posed on a couch so she can be remembered forever looking like an angel. While looking through his lens, the beautiful corpse appears to come to life and smile at him. The serious young man falls in love with her at that moment and later imagines they are flying off together in the heavens.

The young man, a newly arrived resident in the Douro region of Portugal, is a lodger in the respectable boardinghouse of Madam Justina (Adelaide Teixeira). The other intellectual lodgers and the superstitious proprietor are concerned with the young lodger’s strange behavior of late, as the guests stiffly chat at the breakfast table over science and the world’s current chaotic conditions and their strange fellow lodger who arrives late for breakfast and has a faraway look as he seemingly looks through them. Justina also frets about the moans coming from Isaac’s room at night, and tries to comfort the quiet young man in a nagging motherly way. But Isaac becomes a lost cause, haunted every minute of the day by the absolute love he feels from the presence of the dream-like Angelica he imagines he sees beckoning to him to join her and receives solace in the real world only in photographing the old-fashioned workers at the nearby vineyard on the hill, who swing their picks and sing while they do the hard manual work that machines now usually do.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”