Manoel De Oliveira • Director
The director philosopher
by Paolo Menzione
- The great Portuguese author, aged 95, talks in syllogisms. After A Talking Picture, shown in competition at Venice, he’s back in Italy for the "Maestros of Cinema" Prize
Manoel De Oliveira, born in 1908, has been given an award in Rome today. It’s the "Maestros of Cinema" prize and is awarded by Edoardo Bruno’s magazine, Film Critica. In the past the prize has been given to great international authors like Hitchcock, Kazan, Minnelli and Godard. It has also been the opportunity to show rare films by this author, who was discovered by the public very late, and who still continues to provide us with new masterpieces, year after year. The event is being held at the Filmstudio in Rome, from October 14 to 16. And his latest work, A Talking Picture, is soon set to be out in general release in Italy. This film was shown in competition at Venice. It is a metaphor about the old and new Europe, and also about the utopia of a universal language. "It’s strange to talk about a film that’s called A Talking Picture. De Oliveira uses the style of a philosopher to explain himself, using syllogisms and rhetorical figures of speech.
A Talking Picture also looks at a Europe that is still developing , the European Union. What does European cinema mean to you?
"Cinema in general, and not just European cinema, is the last of the arts in date order. And like all the arts, it’s a ghost of reality. Reality is the sum of actual facts and utopias".
Will your next film also talk about utopia?
"Yes, in a certain way. It will be called The Fifth Empire. Today and Tomorrow. It’s a project about the myth of King Sebastian in the 16th century. He was a 15 year old sovereign who wanted to spread "Christian Peace" throughout the world. He even gave up the idea of marriage to hold on to his spiritual power. But when you are looking for peace, war comes along. Sebastian attacked Morocco and he was intended to reach Jerusalem. At the end of the story the king dies. And in Portugal, we are still waiting for his return".
This prize has also been awarded to other great directors like Hitchcock and Godard. As a maestro of cinema who do you feel closest too for their sensitivity as a filmmaker?
"All directors are different. And that’s the way it should be. Luckily cinema still hasn’t been affected by globalisation. Just think what a disaster that would be. The first crucial distinction between men is in the sexes. Men and women use different reasoning processes. Then there are all the other differences. Everyone being the same only exists in the army!".
A while ago you were accused of badly directing the actors. What do you say to that?
"It’s impossible because I don’t direct them. I promote spontaneous performances. The actors are the salt of a film. They give a body and a voice to the characters and make up the strength of the film. And this is the reason why the most difficult part of making a film is choosing the actors. Once I’ve done the casting I’m much more relaxed. Unfortunately if there’s any credit given, it usually goes to the director".
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