Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Best of 2011, number 6: The Strange Case of Angelica

Posted By on 12.13.11 at 10:00 AM

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Throughout December, J.R. Jones and I will take turns writing about our favorite films that had their Chicago premieres this year.

This lighthearted—but by no means lightweight—fantasy was Manoel de Oliveira’s most substantial film since A Talking Picture (2003). Its central theme is nothing less than the preparation for death, yet de Oliveira approaches it with understatement and wry humor. It’s also a moving allegory about cinema, as its hero finds himself able to communicate with the dead (in the body of a recently deceased young woman he’s been hired to photograph) by looking through the lens of his camera.

Let’s take a moment to rejoice: de Olivera, who’s made a film a year since 1990, turned 103 on Sunday, and he currently has two movies in post-production. He’s often said that cinema has kept him alive, though clearly it’s done much more than that. As the philosophical dialogues of Angelica indicate, movies allow this master artist to consider the fate of the entire world. That might sound forbidding, but the movie is the work of a man at peace: every image is simple, harmonious, and essential.

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