FSLC Announces Manoel de Oliveira’s Tetralogy of Frustrated Love

Manuel de Oliveira répondant à Antonio Tabucchi (2008.07.03)-Romanceor" PHOTO: Roman Bonnefoy
Manuel de Oliveira répondant à Antonio Tabucchi (2008.07.03)-Romanceor" PHOTO: Roman Bonnefoy


The Film Society of Lincoln Center announces the late icon Manoel de Oliveira’s extremely rare Tetralogy of Frustrated Love, a quartet of films never released in the U.S., February 25-28.

“Not merely Portugal's most important director, Oliveira is an international treasure … As for the quartet that some consider Oliveira’s masterpieces, the ‘Tetralogy of Frustrated Love’ that includes the four-hour-plus Doomed Love, you'll be lucky ever to see the first three.” — Jonathan Romney, Sight & Sound

Oliveira’s death in 2015, at age 106, deprived the cinema of one of its living legends and one of its most prolific, surprising filmmakers. Oliveira’s rate of production famously soared in the last decades of his life, but it was the four films he made in Portugal between 1972 and 1981, when he had already entered his sixties, that established his international reputation.

Literary adaptations that sprawled in length but kept a coiled focus, the films in Oliveira’s Tetralogy of Frustrated Love moved austerely but pulsed with sensual energy, drew on 19th-century theatrical conventions but relied just as heavily on self-reflexive meta-gestures, and signaled the arrival of a one-of-a-kind cinematic voice.

Presented in very rarely screened 35mm prints are Francisca, a sumptuous, sinister portrait of a destructive love affair and one of Oliveira’s crowning achievements; Past and Present, a dark comedy about a widow who falls in love with her husbands after their deaths; Oliveira’s breakthrough fourth feature Benilde, or the Virgin Mother; and Doomed Love, the four-plus-hour-long centerpiece of the tetralogy, a milestone in ’70s art-house cinema.

Organized by Dennis Lim and Florence Almozini.

Tickets go on sale Thursday, February 11 and are $14; $11 for students and seniors (62+); and $9 for members. See more and save with 3+ film discount package. Visit filmlinc.org for more information.

Acknowledgments: Cinemateca Portuguesa; Pedro Costa



Past and Present / O Passado e o Presente
Manoel de Oliveira, Portugal, 1972, 35mm, 115m
Portuguese with English subtitles

Vanda (Maria de Saisset), widowed several times over, falls in love with Ricardo, her late husband, only after his death. She heaps scorn on her current spouse (Pedro Pinheiro), until fate separates them as well… Given the chance to adapt a darkly comic play by his brilliant compatriot João César Monteiro, Oliveira decided to turn his attention away from Portugal’s rural poor and toward the country’s petty, scheming bourgeoisie. Past and Present tracks the many twists of fate that befall Vanda and her handful of duplicitous married friends with thick, corrosive irony and wit. For the subsequent films in his Tetralogy of Frustrated Love, Oliveira would shift into a new tonal range, which makes this Buñuelian first installment all the more fascinating—a glimpse at what Oliveira needed to purge from his system.
Saturday, February 27, 9:00pm
Sunday, February 28, 5:30pm

Benilde, or the Virgin Mother / Benilde ou a Virgem Mãe
Manoel de Oliveira, Portugal, 1975, 35mm, 112m
Portuguese with English subtitles

Oliveira’s fourth feature, adapted from a play by his close friend José Régio, was one of his major breakthroughs as a filmmaker: a fable about a deeply sheltered young woman who tells her wealthy, religious parents that she’s been impregnated in the wake of an angelic visitation. It’s possible to take Benilde, or the Virgin Mother as a scathing denouncement of religious hypocrisy, a veiled response to the abuses of the Salazar regime, or a set of obsessive, carefully staged formal exercises—or some combination of the three. Whatever else, it’s a sensual, technically virtuosic, and wholly ambiguous movie, and as good a key as any to its director’s subsequent work: Oliveira would keep returning to its spectral, suggestive atmosphere through his last films.
Saturday, February 27, 6:30pm
Sunday, February 28, 8:00pm

Doomed Love / Amor de Perdição
Manoel de Oliveira, Portugal, 1979, 35mm, 252m
Portuguese with English subtitles

The nearly four-and-a-half-hour centerpiece of Oliveira’s tetralogy was the fifth cinematic adaptation of Camilo Castelo Branco’s hugely popular 1862 novel, in which two young lovers come to ruin for their forbidden mutual attraction. When it was broadcast on Portuguese TV, Doomed Love drew outrage for its budgetary excesses, its aggressive formal maneuvers, and what were perceived as its bourgeois sympathies. Shown in France, with its first U.S. showing in New Directors/New Films 1980, it was almost instantly recognized as a milestone in ’70s art-house cinema—a film that drew heavily on 19th-century theatrical and literary traditions but created a formal vocabulary entirely its own. Scrupulously faithful to the book, Oliveira also took pains to create a film that, in its seductive tracking shots and its complex arrangement of voices, would take advantage of what only the movies could do.
Friday, February 26, 6:30pm
Saturday, February 27, 1:00pm

Manoel de Oliveira, Portugal, 1981, 35mm, 166m
Portuguese with English subtitles

Camilo Castelo Branco, the author of the novel from which Oliveira adapted Doomed Love, emerged as a character in the director’s next film—a sinister, absorbing portrait of a mutually destructive love affair. Oliveira’s source text for Francisca was a novel by Agustina Bessa-Luís, whose work he’d later adapt twice more. The book’s retelling of a troubled passage in Camilo’s life—his friend José Augusto (Diogo Dória) embarked on a perverse game of marital cat and mouse with Francisca (Teresa Menezes), the woman the novelist loved—led Oliveira to new levels of stylistic and formal imagination. (It helped that his wife, a distant relative of the historical Francisca, gave him access to a cache of the woman’s letters.) With its elaborate title cards, abundance of shots in which the action is oriented directly toward the camera, gloomy interiors, and show-stopping gala set-pieces, Francisca is an exacting, sumptuous, and utterly inimitable cinematic experience, and one of Oliveira’s crowning achievements.
Thursday, February 25, 6:30pm
Sunday, February 28, 2:00pm

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