represents the land of opportunity, but the Islamic world remains a very real
danger. It is the late Sixteenth Century
or perhaps the early Seventeenth. French
playwright Paul Claudel might have taken a few liberties with his historical
timeline, but that is almost to be expected of an epic spanning three
continents and bridging Heaven and Earth.
Adapting Claudel’s Satin Slipper is a daunting proposition, but Portuguese
centenarian auteur Manoel de Oliveira took up the challenge at the youthful age
of 77. Originally a selection of the
1985 New York Film Festival (in a drastically edited form), Oliveira’s full 410
minute Slipper makes a return
appearance tomorrow as part of the Masterworks section of the 50th New York Film Festival, now officially underway.
Old World has discovered the New World and Spain rules the seas. However, her grip might be loosening
somewhat. For Don Pelagio, it is a
dubious honor to have the King’s confidence at such a time. He is being dispatched to shore up Spain’s
African holdings at a time when his marriage is being sorely tested. The much younger Doña Prouheze has attracted the
unwelcomed attention of Don Camillo as well as the reciprocated affection of
Due to the political
maneuvering of the King and her husband, Prouheze reluctantly accepts command
of the Spanish outpost at Mogador, forcing her into the clutches of Camillo and
forever separating her from Rodrigo.
However, she eventually entrusts her daughter to the thwarted lover who
could never have conceived her, yet to whom she bears an eerie resemblance.
Slipper is talky, rangy,
and top heavy with exposition. It is
also a masterpiece of world drama, but an absolute beast to stage. While full productions generally clock in
around the seven hour mark, the Dominican Black Friars Repertory mounted a
svelte but worthy three hour abridged Slipper
as part of their Claudel Project
in early 2010. Oliveira deliberately
emphasizes the dramatic source material, using an apparent proscenium stage
production as a framing device and using highly stylized theatrical sets
throughout the film.
is a strategy that becomes considerably more efficacious as the film
progresses. In fact, the scenes
involving the celestial angels are far better served by his contra-realist
visuals than they could have been rendered with mid 1980’s special effects. Unfortunately, Oliveira’s transition away from
the ostensive stage undercuts the powerful opening, in which a Jesuit Father
lashed to the mast of sinking ship prays directly to God for the redemption of his
impetuous younger brother, Don Rodrigo.
It is a rather profound scene that essentially encapsulates the themes
of redemption and sacrifice Claudel will explore in the hours to come, in mere
its lack of verisimilitude and Oliveira’s occasional postmodern flourishes, his
cast connects with the deep yearning of Claudel’s characters. Luís Miguel Cintra conveys both Rodrigo’s
recklessness dash and his severe brooding quite well. As Prouheze, Patricia Barzyk (Miss France
1980) has to be one of the fiercest tragic screen heroines ever. Probably the most recognizable face in
Oliveira’s Slipper is French actress
Anne Consigny, who also has some fine moments with Cintra, serving as her
adoptive father’s conscience.
viewers will need time to acclimate to Slipper’s
look and language, just as the ensemble visibly seems to get their sea legs
as the film picks up steam. While periodic
scenes of Shakespearean bumpkins offering their rustic commentary could have
been excised without causing any grievous bodily harm, the totality of Oliveira’s
production is undeniably impressive.
deserves all kinds of credit for programming Satin Slipper. At a whisker
under seven hours, it presents certain scheduling challenges (note: there will
be a half hour intermission). Yet, it
dovetails rather nicely with other selections at this year’s fest. Oliveira admirers can also watch the master
at work helming The Strange Case ofAngelica in Luis Miñarro’s documentary short 101 (Oliveira’s age at the time), which proceeds Francesco Patierno’s
War of the Volcanoes tonight (9/29)
and this coming Wednesday (10/3).
Although it is predominantly about Spanish
characters, written by a French playwright, Slipper
also incorporates a fair bit of Portuguese historical geopolitics, making it
an interesting companion film to see in dialogue with Valeria Sarmiento’s Lines of Wellington (originally
developed by the late Raul Ruiz), screening October 9th and 10th. Regardless, Oliveira’s Slipper is an ambitious attraction in its own right—one festival
patrons will not have many other opportunities to see on the big screen in all its
seven hour glory. Recommended for the
literate and adventurous, Satin Slipper screens
this Sunday afternoon (9/30) at the Walter Reade Theater.
Labels: Manoel de Oliveira, NYFF '12, Paul Claudel, Portuguese Cinema