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  • David Parkinson

Parky At the Pictures (21/7/2023)

(Reviews of My Name Is Alfred Hitchcock; and Where Is This Street? or With No Before and After )


MY NAME IS ALFRED HITCHCOCK.


In 1999, Christoph Girardet and Matthias Müller issued a six-part gallery installation entitled, Phoenix Tapes. Running for around 45 minutes, these montage pieces used clips from 40 Alfred Hitchcock films to explore how the Master of Suspense utilised the themes and motifs that make his work so distinguishable.


In `Rutland', the focus falls on the spaces in which Hitchcock set his stories, with interiors and landmarks being juxtaposed with bustling streets and empty expanses. MacGuffins dominate `Burden of Proof', which collects items that nudged plots along while also revealing much about the human psyche. Trains are to the fore in `Derailed', although clips depicting distress are also included.


Mothers became increasingly baleful in Hitchcock's oeuvre from Notorious (1946) onwards, as is explored in `Why Don't You Love Me?', while the spotlight falls on the relationship between men and women in `Bedroom'. Finally, Girardet and Müller consider sleep and death in `Necrologue', which completes an exhaustively researched and splendidly perceptive catalogue of Hitchcock's personal preoccupations and stylistic tics.


One suspects that Mark Cousins must have seen this trove of found footage, as he has similarly appropriated snippets and assembled them in six chapters in My Name Is Alfred Hitchcock. However, Cousins has also written a commentary explaining his selections and their significance. But, rather than deliver it himself in his familiar Northern Irish brogue, he has hired impressionist Alistair McGowan to add a bit of impudence to the insight.


It takes a bit of getting used to, for brilliant though McGowan is, Hitch is never quite himself, as he was in his introductions for Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-65), the trailer for Psycho (1960), his numerous television interviews, and the discussion with an adoring François Truffaut that Kirk Jones recalled in Hitchcock/Truffaut (2015). This McHitchcock is too knowing, too self-satisfied, too Cousinsed.


Nevertheless, there is much to admire and learn from here. Cousins knows his Hitchcock, as he demonstrates with door-opening sequences from Number Seventeen (1932), Stage Fright (1950), and The Wrong Man (1956). He's keen to keep away from the well-trodden analytical paths and lure us into less familiar byways, as he seeks to show how movies are nothing more than edited lies. McHitchcock is clearly a willing conspirator, as he asks us to trust him, while confessing that this film also contains a fib.


Opening `Escape', McHitchcock accuses viewers of having feathered their nests in the 21st century. But his generation wanted to break free and he left Leytonstone in order to pursue his dreams. Shots of mosaics derived from Hitchcock scenes give way to the matte paintings and studio sets he used to create alternative realities in The 39 Steps (1935), Saboteur (1942), The Paradine Case (1947), and The Trouble With Harry (1955).


But, while open spaces could be inviting, they also left Cary Grant exposed in North By Northwest (1959). This necessitated a different kind of escape and characters are shown making ingenious exits in The 39 Steps, Saboteur, and Torn Curtain (1964). By contrast, Anny Ondra wanders in a shocked daze after killing in self-defence in Blackmail (1929), while Tallulah Bankhead makes an unusual entrance by poking her finger through John Hodiak's newspaper in Lifeboat (1944).


Shrugging off the fact that most people won't have seen silents like The Ring or Downhill (both 1927), McHitchcock drops in references to reinforce his points about cinema and escapism. We even see shadowy bars being cast over the faces of Ingrid Bergman in Spellbound (1945) and Henry Fonda in The Wrong Man to represent the everyday incarceration that McHitch believes moviegoers seek to flee.


Having drawn our attention to the handheld dockland footage in Downhill to the pliantly plush carpets in Murder! (1930), McHitchcock develops his point about showing rather than telling over the close-ups of Janet Leigh arriving at the Bates Motel in Psycho. He gloats about the contrasting scenes of Ivor Novello bolting from the mob (ie us) in The Lodger (1927) and Lila Kedrova seeking to get out of the Soviet bloc in Torn Curtain before noting how friends like Peter Lorre, Billy Wilder, and Marlene Dietrich had exiled themselves in the fact of Fascist tyranny.


But McHitchcock has saved his favourite kid of escape till last and uses umbrella imagery from Topaz (1969) and Foreign Correspondent (1940) to celebrate his eschewal of conventional shooting techniques. He sneers at Raymond Chandler's contention that Hitchcock had been prepared to flaunt narrative logic for a striking shot, as he shows us virtually silent corridor sequences in The Birds (1963) and Torn Curtain.


Guiding our eyes to Paul Cézanne's portrait of his wife in Marnie (1964), McHitchcock compares his own refusal to conform to the `world's geometry' in his blocking of scenes, camera movements, and his use of colour, such as the orange flashes after the camera bulbs pop in Rear Window (1954). He also reflects on the use of humour that producer David O. Selznick had felt was out of keeping with the tone of their suspenseful 1940s melodramas. The three rabbits watching the baggage car struggles in The Lady Vanishes (1938) is a splendid example of Hitchcock's genius for what McHitchcock calls his taste for `salt and sweet'. The unravelling wool on the dance floor in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) is similarly apt, while Herbert Marshall's use of a teaspoon to eat his soup to spare a lower-class female guest's blushes in Murder! is used to illustrate how Hitchcock sought ways to distance himself from the formalities of Victorian melodrama and bring a little modernity to what was still a nascent artform.


McHitchcock calls it putting Madeira in his soup and uses a close-up of Jessie Matthews in Waltzes From Vienna (1934) to illustrate his readiness to look the audience in the eyes. He reverses the footage to reveal a subtle cut in the shot and explains how he even subverted his own experiments by inserting an abrupt cut from Farley Granger to James Stewart in Rope (1948), a chamber drama that made much in its pre-publicity of its construction from lengthy takes.


Committed to the unexpected in order to toy with the audience's emotions, Hitchcock had shown the empty jury room while the verdict is read out on the soundtrack in Murder!. He had also left Anna Massey to her fate in Barry Foster's digs in Frenzy (1972), while the camera retreats back down the stairs and into the street. Cousins shows us the front door in Covent Garden, as McHitchcock reminisces about wanting to set his overdue return to London in the real world.


The world was never more real in any project with which Hitchcock was associated than in the newsreel coverage of the death camps at the end of the Second World War. Over an extract from German Concentration Camps Factual Survey (2014), McHitchcock explains how he had been asked by Sidney Bernstein to participate in a documentary revealing the unspeakable horror of the Holocaust and how he had urged crews to use slow pans to include corpses and dignitaries in the same shot to avoid accusations of fakery. As he so rightly puts it, some things should not be escaped.


Avoiding problems by travel is cited as another form of getting away from it all in clips from Rear Window and The Birds, while a lengthy segment from Marnie shows Tippi Hedren changing identity. McHitchcock avers that he sought to control every aspect of his life to avoid humiliation. With audiences, however, he strove to catch them off guard and prey on their fears by intruding upon their subconscious. He suggests James Stewart was waking from a dream state in pursuing Kim Novak in Vertigo (1958) and claims that he was roused by Desire.


This second section opens with a selection of artworks depicting passion, as McHitchcock reveals that he was taught to suppress his longings by the Jesuits. We see chorines Carmelita Geraghty and Virginia Valli getting ready for bed in The Pleasure Garden (1925) in a scene he concedes consciously contained lesbian undertones. But desire could sometimes be one-sided, as in the comparable kissing scenes in The Lodger and Rear Window.


Smuttily noting a waking Derrick De Marney brushing his head against Nova Pilbeam's bosom in Young and Innocent (1937), McHitch delights in Grace Kelly's confidence in kissing Cary Grant at her hotel door in To Catch a Thief (1955). Doors open in Ingrid Bergman's mind as Gregory Peck closes in for a kiss in Spellbound (1945), as McHitchcock explains that he wanted to put the viewer in Bergman's head as she let go of her inhibitions.


The slow glide across the restaurant towards Kim Novak in Vertigo was similarly designed to put the spectator into James Stewart's shoes, as he gazed at her from the bar. He's timid, but wants to smooch her in the way Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman do in Notorious (1946). McHitchcock explains how this close-up was photographed to exclude the rest of the world and he repeated the trick with Grant and Eva Marie Saint in North By Northwest. Searching for the best way to describe the studio's attitude to such scenes, McHitchcock coins the phrase `chaste arousal', which Cousins commends as though approving an ad-libbed departure from his text.


Love in the open air is discussed via Spellbound and The Ring, although the moment is spoilt in the latter, as the reflections of Lillian Hall-Davies and Carl Brisson are disturbed when her snake bracelet causes ripples by falling into the water. The boxer wanted his girl to be innocent, but James Stewart only realises how much he loves Grace Kelly in Rear Window after witnessing her experience the kind of danger that excites him in war zones.


Cary Grant was less enamoured of Ingrid Bergman's worldly past in Notorious and uses it to distance himself from her before sending her to entice unrepentant Nazi, Claude Rains. McHitchcock latches on to Charles Laughton being lustful in The Paradine Case and Jamaica Inn (1938). In the former, Alida Valli is charged with murderous desire and the boyfriend of one of the chorines is haunted by the ghost of the woman he killed in The Pleasure Garden. McHitchcock dismisses this for being a message movie. But he includes it to remind his listeners that not all desires should be gratified.


He warns of the dangers of obsessive desire by introducing us to Judith Anderson as Mrs Danvers in Rebecca (1940) and showing how music and camera movement draw Joan Fontaine upstairs to her predecessor's shrine. In the dinner sequence following the bus explosion in Sabotage (1936), he shows how Sylvia Sidney felt an urge to kill Oscar Homolka (the husband who had been responsible with his bomb) with the carving knife and fork she is using to serve up supper.


Containing clips from Under Capricorn (1949) and Family Plot (1976), a montage follows of glistening eyes, teardrops, and gems, as McHitchcock shows how he used light, shadow, angle, and distance to alert the audience to key details within a shot. It feels cumbersomely inserted, while the effect of a portrait of a seated Hitchcock opening out to fill the screen as McHitchcock outlines his love of socialising feels like an awkward entrée into the third chapter, `Loneliness'.


An anecdote about deliberately dropping the lighter from Strangers on a Train (1951) down a storm drain ends a rumination about solitude in busy lives and leads into a sequence of shots of lonely women, such as Marnie, the second Mrs De Winter, Miss Lonelyhearts, and Miss Gravely buying a new cup in The Trouble With Harry. His men in isolation include Cary Grant in the cornfields and Ivor Novello in his lodging house. But even more alone is widower Jameson Thomas in The Farmer's Wife (1928), with even the firelight conspiring to expose his pain.


Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) ponders traps were walk into in Psycho before McHitchcock compares the Bates Motel shower with the phone kiosk in which Tippi Hedren seeks sanctuary in The Birds (1963) and the toilet stall in which she overhears gossip in Marnie. He declares these among his most serious pictures because hope seems to be lost. But Montgomery Clift's priest has too much faith in I Confess (1953) and it almost costs him.


When Psycho was first screened, Hitchcock asked exhibitors to close the curtains over the screen and wait 30 seconds before hitting the house lights. He wanted patrons to be alone with their thoughts in the darkness and Cousins somewhat gimmickly narrows the screen over the opening snapshot until the screen darkens and the word `Time' takes us into Part Four.


Digressing to inform us about being fitted with a pacemaker in 1974 after falling out of step with time, McHitchcock claims he sought to control audience heartbeats with his films. He meanders about disliking period pieces and considering movies to be time machines before he discusses the use of captions signposted specific moments in Notorious and Psycho and his use of real time in the smoking scenes in The Birds and Blackmail.


Killing in real time is considered through Blackmail and Torn Curtain, while he explores the impact of coincidental timing in Sabotage and North By Northwest. McHitchcock warns views that such moments might lie in wait in their own lives in defining suspense as fear plus time. He notes the use of the metronome in Rope and the ticking rhythm of the score as Janet Leigh tries to sell her car in Psycho and as Ray Milland realises that his watch has stopped and his plan to kill wife Grace Kelly has been jeopardised in Dial M For Murder (1954).


In passing on the lesson about slowing time down when a character wants to speed it up, McHitchcock expresses relief that mobile phones hadn't been invented in his day. He compares (rather tortuously) their bombarding effects with the cross-cutting used in the chase scene in Number Seventeen. Much more to his liking, however, were the ways in which he played with time in using a roving camera to follow in the footsteps of the past in the revelation scenes in Rebecca and Rope and in having Tippi Hedren in relive in Marnie - via a trombone shot - the traumatic childhood incident that has shaped her life.


McHitchcock laments that the films of his youth have largely decayed, while the majority of the people he worked with are dead. As he mourns the early deaths of editor George Tommasini and cinematographer Robert Burks, McHitchcock recalls how he had to work with new people during a period in which he experienced highs and lows. This leads him into `Fulfilment' and a diatribe about the French Riviera, friendship with Carole Lombard, and the transient nature of contentment.


A shot of Betty Balfour learning how to survive in the real world from Champagne (1928) prompts a recollection of watching and learning during a fact-finding trip to Germany in the early 1920s. McHitchcock relives the thrill of the crane shot in the barn designed by Alfred Junge for Young and Innocent, the windmill sequence in Foreign Correspondent, and the climactic tussle on the merry-go-round in Strangers on a Train.


McHitchcock hopes he kept up his end of the bargain to provide thrills in return for the satisfaction of making films. Of filling scenes like the one in the hardware store in Psycho with details that added humour to the sense of foreboding. As Cousins's camera roves around the Buddha-like Antony Donaldson sculpture of Hitchcock's head on the former site of Gainsborough Studios in Islington, McHitch muses about his idyllic home life with wife and regular collaborator Alma Reville and their daughter, Patricia. Clips from Foreign Correspondent, Rich and Strange (1931), The Farmer's Wife, and The Manxman (1929) are used to sum up their courtship and lifelong connection, as McHitchcock dubs Alma his Thelma Ritter (who keeps James Stewart thinking straight in Rear Window). There's no mention of any on-set obsessions with the various Hitchcock blondes, however.


Wishing he'd spoken more about core values than McGuffins, McHitchcock presents James Stewart's epiphanal moment in Rope as a kind of fulfilment. He may not have dwelt on the meaning of life like Ingmar Bergman or Michelangelo Antonioni, but he had things to say and decides to conclude this resumé on a high with a section on `Height'.


A lover of the Alps, Hitchcock used mountains and inclines in numerous films. McHitchcock recalls the skiing reverie in Spellbound and the chairlift sequence in Mr & Mrs Smith (1941). Following a brief mention of James Stewart's fear of heights in Vertigo, he goes on to comment on the crane shot over Barry Fitzgerald addressing a crowd on a Dublin street in Juno and the Paycock (1930) and the elevation in Strangers on a Train to show Farley Granger hiding a gun in a drawer.


Having given away a trade secret about Claude Rains needing to walk up a ramp to be the same height as Ingrid Bergman in Notorious, McHitchcock reflects on stair-climbing sequences in Stage Fright and Blackmail. He then returns to Rio for the crane swoop down to the key in Bergman's hand in Notorious and reveals how Teresa Wright's realisation about uncle Joseph Cotten prompted a pull-out shot of equally smooth audacity in Shadow of a Doubt (1943).


Descents dominate the Statue of Liberty sequence in Sabotage and the car plunge into a mineshaft in Young and Innocent. But we're back on the ascent to convey a sense of Big Brother in Torn Curtain and class distinction in Under Capricorn. The denouement of Murder! involves a flying trapeze, while Charles Laughton plunges to his death in Jamaica Inn. Street sound conveyed the height of the apartment in Rope, while a towering Busby Berkeleyesque top shot reveals how small Gregory Peck feels at the end of The Paradine Case. As a token gesture, he also shows us a shot looking down on Doris Day and James Stewart getting bad news in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) before he lists examples of high angles being used simply to show off his own omniscience in Dial M, Vertigo, and North By Northwest.


References to God's eye-view in I Confess and The Birds allude to Hitchcock's determination to disconcert while being wholly cinematic. McHitchcock hopes he's shed some light on his oeuvre and the trickster medium he had adored since witnessing F.W. Murnau shooting The Last Laugh (1924). He wanted to look at life in the way the policeman views the piece of modern art in Joan Fontaine and Cary Grant's home in Suspicion (1941) and highlights the use of abstract shape to convey the boxer's disorientation when he's knocked out in The Ring. He hopes his name will linger like Miss Froy's on the train window in The Lady Vanishes. So, as he admits that the lost lighter story was a lie, McHitch closes with the last shot his alter ego ever made, of Barbara Harris sitting down on the stairs in Family Plot, looking directly into the camera, and winking in a freeze frame. It was the perfect trickster's farewell.


Cousins is right to state that Hitchcock's voice continues to be heard in cinemas around the world 43 years after his death. But the genius that informed his output is sold short by this acutely observed, but rarely revelatory survey. And just to be extra fussy, what had Easy Virtue (1927), The Skin Game (1931), and Secret Agent (1936) done to miss the cut? Also absent is Mary (1931), Hitchcock's German remake of Murder!, which might have revealed some intriguing variations on the original.


Full credit must go to editor Timo Langer for piecing the clips together, along with the portraits of Hitchcock to which Cousins reverts when developing trains of thought. He doesn't seem to have had many of these at his disposal, however. Consequently, he overuses the gambit of closing in on the director's eyes, as though he were peering into his mind.


Of course, making a documentary about Hitchcock is tricky because it can't follow his mantra about prioritising visuals. Voiceover is essential to conveying information, guiding focus, and making aesthetic pronouncements. Cousins is fortunate in being able to call on such a skilled artist as Alistair McGowan, as he nails both the sound of Hitchcock's voice and his speech and breathing patterns. The odd word comes out like Phil Cornwell doing Michael Caine on Stella Street (1997-2001). But the ventriloquist conceit only feels shaky when the phrases McHitchcock uses sound more like Cousins than the Master of Suspense. Then again, similar problems occurred when Ron Burrage and Mike Perry were respectively cast as Hitch's physical and vocal incarnations in Tom McCarthy and Johan Grimonprez's cine-essay, Double Take (2009), in which the auteur meets up with his younger self while shooting The Birds.


As an inveterate cropper-upper in his own pictures, Hitchcock would probably have been amused by Cousins insisting on having a couple of audio-cameos. By requiring the listener to reset, however, they distort the illusion. So do the cutaways to the stiffly posed millennials who are perhaps meant to represent the audience the nobly evangelising Cousins wishes to address to ensure that people are still enthusing about Hitchcock when the bicentenary rolls round of his unfinished first attempt at directing, Number 13 (1922). Who knows, by then Artificial Intelligence might have found a way to recreate Hitchcock's lost second feature, The Mountain Eagle (1926)? Until then, we'll have to settle for this engaging and discerningly intelligent artifice.


WHERE IS THIS STREET? OR WITH NO BEFORE AND AFTER.


Although it had been preceded by Ernesto de Sousa's Dom Roberto (1962), Paulo Rocha's Os Verdes Anos/The Green Years (1963) alerted the world to the Portuguese new wave. Not to be confused with its Brazilian counterpart, Cinema Novo is perhaps the least known of the movements that transformed European film in the 1960s. But London cinemagoers have the chance to see this landmark work at The ICA on The Mall, where it is screening alongside João Pedro Rodrigues and João Rui Guerra da Mata's nostalgic homage, Where Is This Street? or With No Before and After.


It's not essential to have seen Rocha's masterpiece before viewing this new work. But it certainly helps, as references abound to the Lisbon in which 19 year-old Júlio (Rui Gomes) arrives from a rural town to live with his uncle, Raúl (Ruy Furtado). The latter serves as narrator, as Júlio struggles to acclimatise to life in the big city after finding work as a cobbler. However, his outlook changes when he bumps into Ilda (Isabel Ruth), a country girl who is employed as a maid to a wealthy family.


Finding excuses to see Ilda again, Júlio begins to find his feet and the pair are treated to a tour of the buildings on which Raúl has left his mark as a craftsman. It's a poignant insight into the quiet pride that has enabled Raúl to find his niche. But, while she amuses herself by putting on a fashion show with the mistress's clothes, the hot-headed Júlio is dismayed by the conspicuous affluence of Ilda's employers and lashes out, knowing that they will never be able to live in such style.


Having trained at IDHEC in Paris, Rocha had assisted Manoel De Oliveira on The Bread (1959) and Act of Spring (1963,) and Jean Renoir on The Vanishing Corporal (1962) before making his debut. Influenced by neo-realism and the urban existentialism of Michelangelo Antonioni, The Green Years celebrates the hope of youth and the energy of the White City. Buoyed along by Carlos Paredes's catchy guitar score, Luc Mirot's camera locates the doomed characters in striking monochrome images that capture the history and modernity of Lisbon, as well as the disparities between its residents.


Six decades later, Rodrigues and Guerra da Mata go in search of the cult classic's sights and sounds to see how much remains and reflect on the picture's impact on Lusophonic culture. Rocha died in 2012, but the duo enticed 80 year-old Isabel Ruth into taking a trip down memory lane. However, this is also very much a snapshot of lockdown Lisbon that chronicles a unique moment in time.


Opening captions reveal that the pair live in the Alvalade district of Lisbon in a modernist block that was built by Rodrigues's grandfather in 1960. Across the road was the place where Ilda and Júlio hold hands for the first time while walking in The Green Years. Amidst shots of the parched landscape with trains and cars speeding in and out of shot (and a mannequin's hand lying sinisterly in the undergrowth), we see the view from the basement where Júlio repaired shoes. Another interior resembles the café where Uncle Raúl meets his friends. It's empty and someone hoovers around a dormant dog in the same way that a broom swept between feet back in 1963 after sawdust had been scattered on the floor.


Next, we're off to the station where Júlio had arrived from the sticks and paused on the platform with his bags as Tippi Hedren was to do in Marnie (1964). In the Mark Cousins documentary reviewed above, McHitchcock claims that he pinched the effect from an Italian film. Perhaps Rocha did the same? Masked passengers spill out of a sleek service, whose arrival is announced in several languages, along with reminders to be considerate to others during the pandemic.


A busker plays in the underpass, but he's quieter than the youths who had charged past Júlio and the man showing him to the Metropolitano de Lisboa. There's no chat on the train, either, as Covid-19 makes people even more reticent in a clunking carriage. But Rodrigues and Guerra da Mata do slip in a nice pandemic variation on Júlio's struggle with the door catch by having a man try to enter a building without contaminating his hands.


Raúl had a scooter back in 1963, but it's a Segway that whizzes through the shot, as we visit the wasteland where Júlio had sat with some chirpy young boys. A skateboarder zips past in the opposite direction, as an insect scurries across the green road markings denoting a cycle lane.


Our next stop is the apartment building where Ilda works, but we move quickly on to the site of the shoe shop and the window in which she had peered through asking for a pair of high heels to be mended. It's dark and empty inside, but life continues to bustle past the now barred windows. There's less activity by the building where Ilda and Júlio begin their walk into parkland that appears unchanged. As a singing Isabel Ruth saunters into shot, Rodrigues wonders whether his grandparents had watched the filming from their window. She removes her headscarf, as the co-directors pop their heads out of the window and sidles away with her elegance and poise undimmed by time.


A clip from The Green Years shows Raúl at work and we hear the sounds of construction, as the camera mooches round what must have been his workshop. Passing from the café where he frequently met his friends, we visit some of the places where he had pointed out his handiwork to Júlio and Ilda. Arriving at the bridge, the camera pans round to the winding iron staircase before repositioning itself on the viewing platform that looks out over the red-tiled rooftops and the sea. The colours are evocative, but are they as atmospheric as the monochrome vistas achieved by Rocha and Mirot?


Boarding the same ferry that the trio had taken over half a century ago, Rodrigues and Guerra da Mata venture into the empty café, as a foghorn sounds down by the jetty. They pop into the zoo to see how the tigers and giraffes are coping with Covid, while an official message emanates from the radio over shots of the apartment where Ilda had lived in. It now appears to be an office space, although papers are piled high on desks because everyone is working from home and ordering takeaways from scooting couriers.


Gliding shots pick out the ceilings that had fascinated Rocha and the railings at the venue where Júlio had lost his temper over Ilda dancing with another man. This once chic haunt of the with-it set now looks sadly shabby and neglected, as if only the tree outside the open window can remember its heyday. There's even graffiti on the walls of the steps they had skipped down after causing an altercation.


By now, this was becoming a habit for Júlio and he winds up aggravating Raúl in one of his favourite watering holes (which now seems to be called Texas Bar) and is taken under the wing of a bibulous Englishman (who was splendidly played by Harry Wheeland). Flies buzz over the red-topped table, while a siren wails in the distance and an overturned chair suggests the tussle that sent Júlio and the tight toff into the streets towards an encounter with two ladies of the night.


Speeding fire engines and ambulances break the rhythmic hum of passing traffic on the road behind the white apartment blocks. The scrubland between has yellowed and the park also looks scorched and there's a dryness to the foliage, as it rustles on the breeze. It was here that Ilda and Júlio had squabbled over a sweater and he had been forced to fish it out of a pond after petulantly throwing it in.


Checking in at the basement again (from where Júlio had seen Ilda getting out of her master's car), we hasten to the modern colonnaded building the couple had visited, with its murals and text from St Paul's Letter to the Romans about submitting to the governing authority. This outing had concluded with the couple sitting under a tree, but the wind starts to whip up in the present day, as if to warn about the tempestuous ending to come. Darkness descends and ominous rumbles of thunder tae us back to the apartment, where Júlio will stab llda to death before fleeing into the night, only to have his escape blocked by traffic.


Mischievously, Rodrigues and Guerra da Mata take the sting out of the tragedy by having Isabel Ruth rise from the floor where she had collapsed 60 years before and burst into the street singing that her heart is as light as a balloon. But the co-directors are not finished there, as they duplicate the elevated shot away from Júlio's plight to look down on the octogenarian, as she twirls full of life in the headlight beams of the cars encircling her.


This brilliant denouement might turn back cinematic time in showcasing Ruth's enduring vivacity. But it also reminds us that Rui Gomes died in 2001. He recalls Jean-Pierre Léaud in The Green Years, with Ruth having something Anna Karina-ish about her. Rocha was clearly inspired by the nouvelle vague, with his follow-up, Mudar de vida/Change of Life (1966) owing much to Agnès Varda's La Pointe courte (1954). But his influence can also be felt in Iberian outings like José María Nunes's Noche de vino tinto (1966).


Rodrigues is known queer classics like O Fantasma (2000) and The Ornithologist (2016) and he slips the odd gay moment into this inspired guided tour. Rui Poças and Lisa Persson's camerawork is lithely handsome in observing scenes of gentrification and deterioration, while Mariana Gaivão's measured editing allows the viewer time to recognise and recall the different locations. Borrowing the odd motif from Carlos Paredes, Séverin Balon's score is a jaunty delight to counter the sombre pandemic panegyrics. But what is most fascinating is how Rodrigues and Guerra da Mata use the lockdown setting to echo Rocha's insights into living under a dictatorship and coming to terms with an alien environment.


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