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Imagens de uma cidade perdida

Just a little note, for those interested.  Newest film was invited to Rotterdam festival, where both Marcella and I will be to see friends, films, and introduce and do Q and A with film.  Imagens (Images of a lost city) is a portrait of a disappearing Lisbon, which was shot when I lived there, 1996-98.   It is mostly shot in the area around the Alfama, Castelo de São Jorge, and Graça, though there are other places glimpsed.  These are old neighborhoods in the center of the city, a hint of what once was Lisboa.

I first saw Lisboa in 1964, while traveling on an Italian freighter, as one of 12 passengers, enroute to Tampico, Mexico.  Beginning in Genoa, other stops included Livorno, Marseille, Cadiz, then Lisboa and on across the Atlantic where we could have stopped in Habana but the United States had imposed its embargo, so we went on to La Guaira, a port for Caracas, and then on to Vera Cruz and finally Tampico.   It took a month, and cost all of $150, meals included.  It was an Italian ship so the food was pretty good.  It was a fantastic adventure too.

Lisboa at that time was still a very isolated little piece of Europe, under Salazar, and distant from almost everywhere owing its location on the edge of the Iberian peninsula, the bad roads, and poverty.  Then there were almost no cars, and little children trailed me as I went into the Alfama, the rare tourist.  It was at that time an extraordinarily beautiful city, its little pedrinas and stone inlays, its azulas (blue ceramic tiles which covered many buildings as protection against the ocean climate) all marking each square centimeter as being lovingly attended by hand and craft.  I had seen many other European cities, but Lisboa left a deep impact.    Later, in the early 1980’s I returned, to shoot a documentary (never finished)  for the BFI on Raul Ruiz, and renewed my acquaintance with Lisboa, which had already been somewhat ravaged by modernity, and which had begun to look like a run-down 3rd world city.  Again I returned in the late 80’s, and had a traumatic and passionate affair with a Portuguese singer, who quite inadvertently influenced the making of All the Vermeers in New York, which is dedicated to her.

And again I returned, then with my partner of 5 years, Teresa Villaverde, a young (at that time) Portuguese filmmaker who had pursued me for several years after meeting me at a small festival in Dunquerque, in 1991 or so.  In 1997 our daughter Clara was born, at the same time I was shooting the material that became Imagens de uma cidade perdida.  In 1998 we moved to Paris.  On November 2, 2000, Teresa Villaverde Cabral – having almost completed shooting of her film Agua e Sal in which a surrogate filmmaker (a curator of photo exhibits), who was played by an Italian actress, Galatea Ranzi, who happened to look almost exactly like Teresa, especially after a bit of hair-cutting, etc., is breaking up with her husband, played by Brazilian singer  Chico Buarque, and who together have a young child, played by Clara Villaverde Cabral Jost – kidnapped Clara from our home in Rome, where we’d lived since leaving Paris.   In the film the same occurs:  Clara is kidnapped by her film mother. (More gruesome is that owing to typical filmworld crap, Clara’s cinematic kidnapping was filmed after her real one – despite vehement objections to the Portuguese Juvenile court.)

To say a long and very unhappy period followed, as a completely corrupt Portuguese system closed around their “star” and legality was cavalierly trashed in the interests of an “important” Lisboa family.  I have been unable to see my daughter, whom I had raised almost single-handedly for 3 and a half years while her mother had the more important matter of making her films (Os Mutantes and Agua e Sal), since August 2001.  Teresa Villaverde has refused all contact, sent back gifts for Clara, and otherwise behaved in a manner typical to those called Parental Alienators.   It has, for me, been a tragedy, which I am certain has been doubled, or worse, in Clara.  She will have her 14th birthday on March 27 of this year.

Clara, on her Facebook page, which was closed down the day I asked to “friend” her.

To say I have a conflicted sensibility about Portugal and Lisbon would be a considerable understatement.  My experience there, perhaps reflected in Imagens, is fully expressive of the Portuguese inclination towards fatalism and sadness.   For them it is as if a part of their DNA, a cultural piece which they are obliged to carry.   They have a particular word for it, saudade. However fanciful it sounds, the place is pervaded with it, and in a sense they are proud of it.  It is little wonder they are currently undergoing their economic travails, and surely in a way, they imagine they deserve it.

Imagens de uma cidade perdida runs 93 minutes. It’s slow and languid, like Lisboa.  It is drenched in both beauty and melancholy, again, as Lisboa is.  Its screening times and places in Rotterdam are as follows:

Friday, 01/28/2011,  14:30 Cinerama 5

Monday, 01/31/2011 14:30 Cinerama 7

Tuesday, 02/01/2011 22:15 LV 6

Also screening in Rotterdam will be a retrospective of my friend Nathaniel Dorsky’s films.  See this.


[Update:  Imagens has been invited in competition at the Yamagata Film Festival, Japan; Oct. 6 – 13.]

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