Eccentricities Of A Blonde-Haired Girl (U)

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The Independent Culture

Nothing about this short film could be as remarkable as its creator: Manoel de Oliveira will turn 102 years old this December, making him by some distance the oldest man ever to direct a feature film.

Updated from a story by the 19th-century Portuguese novelist Eça de Queiróz, it unfolds the romantic misadventure of a young accountant, as told to a stranger he meets on a train. Macario (Ricardo Trepa) sees from his office window a young blonde woman (Catarina Wallenstein) fanning herself in the apartment opposite, and falls in love. The story's period origins intrude here – how many young Portuguese professionals today would ask their uncle/employer for permission to marry? – but de Oliveira's dreamlike mood neutralises such implausibility.

There are perhaps shades of Bresson in its highly deliberate, simple style, though even Bresson might have balked at the austerity of the ending. Old-fashioned without being old-hat, beady and yet wistful, this meditation on desire and its travails has a light touch, and it belies the astonishing age of its maker.