December 18, 2011 -- This whimsical, ethereal tale of love and death is as light as a feather, but charming in its own way. Isaac (Pilar López de Ayala) an amateur photographer receives a strange request late at night from a wealthy local family. He is asked to take pictures of Angelica (Ricardo Trêpa) a beautiful young girl who has just died. When Isaac looks at Angelica through the viewfinder of his camera, he sees her open her eyes and smile at him. When he looks again, her eyes are closed and she is still.
Later, when he develops the film, he gets the same eerie sensation of the girl smiling and looking at him. He is haunted by the dead girl and by the images from his camera. The other people at the boarding house where he lives notice the change in Isaac. He has become distracted, distant, moody. They sit around talking about the economic collapse, particle physics, matter and antimatter while Isaac stares off into space, dreaming of a dead girl.
One night, the dead girl appears to him in a dream and the two go flying off together, translucent phantoms in the night. It is just one of many beautiful images in the film. Almost every frame of this film looks like a painting. Long portions of the film, such as the flight of these two ephemeral lovers is as if it was done in a silent film. While the film is light on intellectual depth, it is deep in images that evoke warmth and hope. There is also a good deal of spoken poetry in the film. Isaac seems to be a romantic and a dreamer focused on the past. He likes to take pictures of farmers who do things the old-fashioned way, with hand tools, not tractors.
There are hints in the film that Isaac was in a kind of funk, a despair before he encountered Angelica. When he found Angelica, he found a cure for his own despair, but it proves to be an elusive cure as Angelica comes to Isaac less often as time goes by, causing Isaac to long for her more. The death of his landlady's bird causes Isaac to go into a panic. He runs to the graveyard where Angelica is buried and collapses. Then he embarks on stranger, inexplicable journeys. This film by writer-director Manoel de Oliveira shows that the old master (he is 103 years old) has lost none of his imagination, or his eye for beauty. This film may be thin, but it is also beautiful and marvelously whimsical and romantic, too. This film rates a B.
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