Manoel de Oliveira

“Manoel de Oliveira, one of the most original and profound artists working in cinema, was never more prolific than after turning 80, thereafter writing and directing one film a year into his late nineties… Despite his late renaissance as a filmmaker, Oliveira now enjoys a worldwide reputation and he has garnered a plethora of awards.” - Ronald Bergan (The Rough Guide to Film, 2007)

Manoel de Oliveira

Director / Screenwriter / Editor / Producer / Cinematographer
(1908-2015) Born December 11, Oporto, Portugal
Top 250 Directors

Key Production Countries: Portugal, France, Spain, Switzerland, Italy
Key Genres: Drama, Psychological Drama, Comedy Drama, Romantic Drama, Period Film, Short Film, Road Movie, Religious Drama
Key Collaborators: Paulo Branco (Producer), Leonor Silveira (Leading Character Actress), Luís Miguel Cintra (Leading Character Actor), Diogo Dória (Leading Character Actor), Ricardo Trêpa (Leading Character Actor), Valérie Loiseleux (Editor), Zé Branco (Production Designer), Leonor Baldaque (Leading Character Actress), Isabel Ruth (Character Actor), Duarte de Almeida (Character Actor), Renato Berta (Cinematographer), Elso Roque (Cinematographer)

“The best Portuguese director, sensitive, enamored of art, and knowledgeable, who began making experimental documentaries (Douro Faina Fluvial) and later made, outside of the official industry, Aniki Bobo (42), a precursor of Italian neorealism.” - Georges Sadoul (Dictionary of Film Makers, 1972)
“The mature, most accomplished phase of his career did not start until the early 70s, when he was well into his 60s. Leaning increasingly toward romantic fiction, he described this phase as the “stage of the bourgeoisie,” in contrast to his earlier “stage of the people.” Ostensibly, comprising a cycle of stories about frustrated love, his films of the 70s are admired by critics for their aesthetic poesy and modernist complexity. Oliveira’s harvest of the 80s consisted of both fact and fiction films, bringing to a culmination the wide-ranging creative career of a man who won belated recognition as one of Europe’s leading filmmakers.” - The Film Encyclopedia, 2012
“Manoel de Oliveira is perhaps best known for the astounding fact that, as he approaches his centenary, he continues to direct at least one film per year… His style is often compared to that of Luis Buñuel or Robert Bresson. Oliveira encourages minimalist performances that recall Bresson’s conceptualization of actors as models and, like Buñuel, Oliveira routinely satirizes the bourgeoisie. However, Oliveira’s work is complicated by his sympathy for the elite class he pokes fun at. Consequently, his use of verbal and visual irony is less overt, and more circumspect.” - 501 Movie Directors, 2007
“The easing of restrictions in Portugal revived the career of the country’s most important filmmaker, Manoel de Oliveira, who began directing in the 1930s but had not been permitted to make a film between 1942 and 1956. Among his works over the next two decades that played a leading role in the development of Portuguese cinema were O acto da primavera (Spring Mystery Play, 1963), combining documentary and fiction based on traditional passion plays; O passado e o presente (The Past and the Present, 1971), a comedy; Amor de perdição (Doomed Love, 1978), and Francisca (1981), films that link stylized decor with narratives of frustrated passion.” - Robert Sklar (Film: An International History of the Medium, 1993)
"Simultaneously rugged and tender, the tortured work of Manoel de Oliveira, in which a personal vision is transformed into a unique expression of Portuguese culture, finds its only counterpart in that of Carl Theodor Dreyer. The radical aesthetic and ethical programs of both filmmakers met with incomprehension during the formative years of their careers. In addition, one finds a tragic fusion of profane desire and an aspiration toward the sacred in the work of both directors." - Manuel Dos Santos Fonseca (International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, 2000)
“Now universally considered a ‘great master’ of the cinema, Oliveira has had an extremely irregular and difficult career in his own country; only in the last two decades has he worked regularly, making twelve features (besides shorts) in twenty-three years, at a rate of one a year since 1990.” - Augusto M. Seabra (Encyclopedia of European Cinema, 1995)
“Oliveira is a Portuguese filmmaker who is older than both the feature film and the republic of Portugal; he’s not only the last living filmmaker to have started in the silent era and the last living person to have worked in silent movies as an adult, but the only figure in film history whose career spans from the silent age to the digital era. He began making movies in 1927, and still makes movies today. The funny thing, though, is that Oliveira is also film history’s quintessential late bloomer. He didn’t get around to making his first feature until the 1940s; it wasn’t well received, and he spent the next few decades—most of an average adult life, really—running his family’s vineyard business, occasionally making documentary shorts on the side. Then he retired, and started making movies full-time—for pleasure. He had his international breakthrough at age 73, with the miniseries Doomed Love. Since then, he’s averaged a film a year.” - Ignatiy Vishnevetsky (A.V. Club, 2014)
TSPDT Guide
Recommended
Aniki-Bóbó (1942), Doomed Love (1978), Abraham's Valley (1993)
Worth a Look
Labor on the Douro River (1931), Rite of Spring (1963), A Caça (1964), Past and Present (1972), Benilde or the Virgin Mother (1975), Francisca (1981), The Satin Slipper (1985), Os Canibais (1988), No, or the Vain Glory of Command (1990), Journey to the Beginning of the World (1997), Inquietude (1998), I'm Going Home (2001) , Porto of My Childhood (2001), Belle toujours (2006), Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl (2009), The Strange Case of Angelica, The (2010)
Approach with Caution
Word and Utopia (2000), The Uncertainty Principle (2002), A Talking Picture (2003)
Acclaimed Films / IMDB Filmography
1,000 Greatest Films 21st Century's Most Acclaimed Films
Manoel de Oliveira / Favourite Films
Battleship Potemkin (1925) Sergei Eisenstein, Gertrud (1964) Carl Theodor Dreyer, The Gold Rush (1925) Charles Chaplin, The Informer (1935) John Ford, Ivan the Terrible (1944-46) Sergei Eisenstein, Mouchette (1966) Robert Bresson, The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) Carl Theodor Dreyer, Playtime (1967) Jacques Tati, Ugetsu monogatari (1953) Kenji Mizoguchi, Voyage in Italy (1953) Roberto Rossellini.
Source: Sight & Sound (2012)
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