When João César Monteiro died, it was front-page news in Europe, where the Portuguese director is considered a major figure. But since his work is virtually unknown here, BAM is now making amends with a 10-film retro, running from April 28 to May 19. Monteiro’s work is deeply polemic in its criticism of repression in Portuguese society, yet also wildly eccentric and entertaining with its sexually explicit humor and disregard for conventional filmmaking. In Recollections of the Yellow House (1989), arguably his masterpiece, the director plays the lead, the impoverished tenant of a Lisbon boarding house (the character is called João de Deus—named for the Portuguese-born patron saint of prostitutes) whose obsession with his landlady’s daughter leads to bizarre voyeuristic rituals. By the time of Come and Go (2003), his final film, Monteiro may have grown older, but his erotic imagination had lost nothing of its edge—he’s deeply moving as a libertine widower in this meditation on spirituality and desire. It was released the year he died and Portuguese cinema lost its Marquis de Sade.

April 28-May 19, 2010