Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Panorama Europe ’16: Os Maias
how the old set-up line: “that was no lady?” Well, Maria Eduarda is not Carlos
da Maias’s wife and he is not laughing. Unfortunately, the prominent society
doctor was born in scandal and scandal will continue to find him. Of course, he
also does more than his share to contribute to his family’s ill karma in João
Botelho’s adaptation of Eça de Queiroz’s Nineteenth Century Portuguese realist
novel, Os Maias: Scenes from Romantic
which screens as part of Panorama Europe 2016.
in late 1800’s Lisbon, any wife left unattended for too long was considered
fair game. At least, this seems to be the attitude of Dr. Carlos da Maias and
his rakish companion, João da Ega. Frankly, da Maias really ought to know
better, as the only son of Pedro da Maias, who took his own life after his wife
absconded with a Parisian adventurer. He was raised by his grandfather, the
illustrious Afonso da Maias (who had warned his son not to get involved with a
notorious slaver’s daughter), as we see during the extended black-and-white
his affection for the righteous old man, the grandson does not follow his
example. While Ega chases after a government minister’s wife, Maias commences
an affair with an ever so willing Condessa. Quickly tiring of the countess,
Maias turns his attention towards Maria Eduarda the wife of a Brazilian
business man with a somewhat iffy reputation. Unfortunately, Maias falls for
Eduarda harder than is safe for a roguish ladies’ man, putting himself in a
socially awkward position.
to that about a dozen subplots and barrel full of Oscar Wilde-style barbed witticisms
to get a sense of the tone of Os Maias.
Although its source novel is broadly lumped in with Stendahlian Realism,
Botelho deliberately rejects strict verisimilitude in favor of high stylization.
Much like Manoel de Oliveira’s The Satin Slipper,
Os Maias employs conspicuously
painted backdrops and settings to emphasize the film’s sound stage confines.
The was a little bit of that sort of expressive theatricality in Raúl Ruiz’s Mysteries of Lisbon as well, so maybe
this is just something they go for in Portugal.
the scandal and snark are all so rich, viewers will get sucked into this irreproachably
classy soap opera, despite the artificial trappings. As Afonso da Maias, João
Perry anchors the film with superhuman gravitas. He just personifies tragic
dignity and bitter regret. Graciano Dias’s Carlos da Maias comes across as
somewhat vapid, but that sort of works within the dramatic context. However,
Pedro Inês work as Ega is a rare example of a performance that has to be seen
in its entirety to be fully appreciated. While initially, he is just
insufferable, the shtick takes on a “crazy like a fox” quality over time. Once
he starts to click, he becomes the sly, acerbic dynamo driving the film.
Similarly, once you get accustomed to the look
of the picture, Silvia Grabowski’s sets and designs are really quite lovely to
behold. Likewise, cinematographer João Ribeiro gives it all a rich and somewhat
hazy look. Considering how much the production calls attention to its
exaggerated staginess, it is a bizarrely immersive film.
Panorama Europe is
screening the official festival cut of Os
Maias, but there is also a longer director’s cut making the rounds with an
additional fifty minutes of gossip and innuendo (presumably some of that is
covered by the irregular voice-overs in the “short” one hundred thirty-nine-minute
version). The Botelho’s full edit might be even better, but the festival cut is
still quite a lot of fun. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys big, chewy, slightly
salacious literary dramas, Os Maias screens
this Tuesday (5/10) at Bohemia National Hall and Saturday the 21st
at the Museum of the Moving Image, as part of this year’s Panorama Europe.
Labels: Panorama Europe '16, Portuguese Cinema