The northern Portugal town of Guimarães might not seem as fitting a subject for a portmanteau film tribute as its more metropolitan brethren (Paris, je t’aime; New York, I Love You; Tokyo!), but what better way to showcase last year’s European Capital of Culture than with a rich, artful quartet of shorts mirroring the diverse idiosyncrasies of four significant auteurs.
Predictably deadpan, Finland’s Aki Kaurismäki offers a witty, wordless day in the life of a lowly “Tavern Man,” starring Ilkka Koivula as a big dreamer with little café-biz savvy. Aggressively formal and likely to alienate anyone without sufficient knowledge of the country’s 1974 revolution, Pedro Costa’s “Sweet Exorcism” is a sociopolitical ghost story, of sorts, as Colossal Youth‘s Cape Verdean hero, Ventura, takes a doomsday elevator ride with a life-size toy soldier. Víctor Erice’s “Broken Windows” is a sensitive staged-doc portrait of former textile-factory workers recalling to the camera their mostly prideful memories before globalization shuttered the shop.
Closing out the omnibus is the world’s oldest working filmmaker, Manoel de Oliveira, with “The Conquered Conqueror,” a wry analogue to Costa’s colonialism study, in which a tour guide shrugs at sightseers who see a statue for its momentary snapshot potential, not its deep history.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 19, 2013