Gomes reveals his beloved month of August
by Vitor Pinto
After paying homage to master filmmaker Manoel de Oliveira two days ago, the Cannes Film Festival features yet another Portuguese director today, Miguel Gomes, who presented Our Beloved Month of August [+see also:
film profile] in the Directors' Fortnight.
The critic-turned-director’s second feature, after his praised debut A Cara que Mereces, is a hybrid project that mixes documentary and fiction and was shot in the region of Arganil (in central Portugal) in the summers of 2006 and 2007.
There are several ways to interpret Our Beloved Month of August. One is that the director headed to the countryside with a camera and small crew to capture material that would eventually be used for an upcoming project. This was his response to budget problems that were delaying the production of his film.
Yet far from being a film-within-a-film or simply a look at the film world, the first part of Our Beloved Month focuses on a random parade of traditions, local stories and real characters before moving towards a more narrative-oriented approach in the second half.
Some of the people whose daily stories and environments are shown in the first hour return later as characters of a plot following a family on tour with its band one hot August. Gomes’ camera thus captures summer in the country, with its typical religious celebrations, immigrants back for the holidays, sunbathing, summer loves and burning forests.
Nevertheless, the non-fictional part remains stronger, partly due to the inability of a non-professional cast to convince us when they are asked to play a part different – although ultimately closer – from their daily lives.
Borrowing its title from a tune quite well known at rural celebrations, music plays an important part in the film. Nevertheless, although lyrics are sometimes used for dramatic affect the filmmaker never has the pretensions of creating a “musical docufiction”. Gomes also does not give into the temptation of given the film a music video aesthetic or editing, choosing always to remain as close as possible to reality.
Our Beloved Month of August is a co-production between Portugal’s O Som e a Furia and France’s Shellac Films.
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