the Portugueseness. Macao seems to exist
in a state outside of time and geography, serving as a perpetual cultural
crossroads for tourists and migrant workers.
It is the perfect place for a film noir, precisely like von Sternberg’s Macao.
Despite their references to Jane Russell’s character, the approach of co-directors
João Pedro Rodrigues & João Rui Guerra da Mata is radically dissimilar. Narrative is something that happens outside
our field of vision throughout The Last
Time I Saw Macao (trailer
opens tomorrow in New York.
the film commences, a transvestite night club performer lip-synchs “You Kill
Me,” Russell’s big musical number from said Hollywood programmer. Get a good look at Candy, because she is the
first and last character to be seen in LTISM. Instead, the Joãos use voice-over narration,
overheard phone calls, and disembodied dialogue to tell their tale of
narrator, “Guerra da Mata,” grew up in Macao, but spent the entirety of his
adult life in Portugal. He has finally
returned home in response to a call for help from his expat friend Candy. She has always been attracted to the wrong
sort of men, but this is a particularly bad case. Assuming she has fallen in with some sort of
criminal gang, the unseen protagonist becomes entangled with a Chinese Zodiac
cult and a caper involving a strange birdcage (not unlike Pulp Fiction’s suitcase).
might sound like manic b-movie material, but J.P.R. & J.R.G.M. banish all
the action off-screen. Instead, they
give the audience an impressionistic tour of Macao, via a series of darkly
evocative Ozu-esque pillow shots. Fortunately,
they have a keen eye for visuals. Many
individual sequences are quite striking, but eighty-five minutes of such self-referential,
self-consciously elliptical filmmaking gets rather wearying over time. Frankly, Rodrigues & Guerra da Mata’s
abstract style of film noir would arguably work better as a short film, which
has been the form of their previous collaborations.
Given its noir elements and influences as well
as its genre-defying gamesmanship, LTISM will
probably appeal to Godard fans. While
its narrative is considerably more abstract than the French auteur’s early
films, it is downright plot heavy compared to his recent work. Conceptually, it is quite intriguing, but it
remains an intellectual viewing experience rather than an emotional engaging
one. Recommended exclusively for
devotees of Godard and Robbe-Grillet, The
Last Time I Saw Macao opens tomorrow (9/13) in New York at the Elinor Bunin
Munro Film Center.
Labels: Experimental Film, Macanese Cinema, Portuguese Cinema