A religiosa portuguesa
Portugal/France, 2009, 127 minutes
Sat, May 01 / 4:00 / Kabuki / PNUN01K
Mon, May 03 / 3:15 / Kabuki / PNUN03K
Wed, May 05 / 8:50 / PFA / PNUN05P
Julie, an uncommonly lucid yet rootless young actress from Paris arrives in Lisbon to shoot a film based on the 17th-century epistolary novel Letters from a Portuguese Nun. Thus begins Eugène Green’s complex and unconventional film, an idiosyncratic amalgam of formalistic play, subtle humor and big ideas. Still suffering from the dissolution of a love affair, and moved by the poignant fado music heard in the streets and cafes, Julie is ripe for an onset of saudade, a state of existential yearning for something beyond one’s grasp. She meanders through Lisbon’s backstreets, intuitively engaging with a succession of emblematic characters. Sensing the hand of fate guiding her course, she repeatedly returns to the Nossa Senhora chapel, where she observes a young nun, bearing an uncanny resemblance to herself, lost in prayer. When at last the two women speak, the resulting episode—moored by a resonant dialogue of point and counterpoint—is dramatically cathartic and cinematically unforgettable. The reverberations from this encounter shake Julie to her core: For the first time, she will choose, rather than submit to, her destiny. Green’s ruminative approach embraces a refined minimalism and his stylistic conceits—oddly mannered dialogue, exceedingly long takes and characters who deliver their lines while gazing directly into the camera—coalesce and ultimately mesmerize. But it’s the attention he lavishes on Lisbon’s moods, music, literature and cinema—and the cast, featuring several veterans from the films of Manoel de Oliveira—that give The Portuguese Nun an intellectual heft and a quality of nostalgia that is impossible to resist.
In Portuguese and French with English subtitles. North American Premiere.