Manoel de Oliveira (1908-2015)

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J Adams
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Re: Manoel de Oliveira (1908-2015)

#51 Post by J Adams » Sun Aug 20, 2017 1:06 am

Abraham's Valley seems to be an outlier in MO's oeuvre. It adheres to most of his stylistic approach (fixed camera, dry acting and such). But it has much more narrative drive than most of his work and in my view is by far his most accessible film. Who is the audience for MO? I'll gladly see any of it in 35mm, but can't imagine sitting through it on a TV. I'm thinking in particular of some of his earlier, very lengthy works. All brilliant, but can't see a video market in the USA. Beyond the marathon masterpieces, I find his shorter works to be quite minor. So that seems to leave an impossible video release situation.

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John Cope
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Re: Manoel de Oliveira (1908-2015)

#52 Post by John Cope » Sun Aug 20, 2017 3:29 am

J Adams wrote:Abraham's Valley seems to be an outlier in MO's oeuvre. It adheres to most of his stylistic approach (fixed camera, dry acting and such). But it has much more narrative drive than most of his work and in my view is by far his most accessible film.
Really? I don't know. That doesn't reflect my experience at all. I'm not sure what kind of audience you're thinking of but I would highly doubt that most would find it all that accessible, especially at its full 210 minute length. It's intensive and dense in its language in a way that only a few of his other films are. I've always found it to be intellectually exhausting for the demands it makes; I suppose one could just filter those out, though I'm not sure what you'd be left with. It has a nominal narrative framework or structure I guess but it's not pronounced or clear or obvious and is actually among the subjects of inquiry for the film itself (though it doesn't go out of its way to outright and overtly elide conventional narrative beats as La Lettre does). There's far more scrutiny than drive. I would be more inclined to say that there's thematic development but extremely spare and pared down narrative development. There are many others that seem much more directly accessible: e.g. Voyage to the Beginning of the World, I'm Going Home, Belle toujours, Christopher Columbus: The Enigma, Eccentricities, Angelica (Angelica seems to me the most accessible by far as its narrative could not be more clear and easy to follow even if, as always, the themes and subtext are rich and challenging).
J Adams wrote:Who is the audience for MO? I'll gladly see any of it in 35mm, but can't imagine sitting through it on a TV. I'm thinking in particular of some of his earlier, very lengthy works. All brilliant, but can't see a video market in the USA. Beyond the marathon masterpieces, I find his shorter works to be quite minor. So that seems to leave an impossible video release situation.
Well, I don't find his shorter works to be minor at all even if I much prefer some to others. I do agree that some of the longer work would be a tough sell though surely not impossible in this day and age of niche releases. And I have to confess that Doomed Love is among the only films of his I do not like, heretical admission though it may be, and I did see that in a theater.

J Adams
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Re: Manoel de Oliveira (1908-2015)

#53 Post by J Adams » Mon Aug 21, 2017 12:37 am

Doomed Love is my favorite MO film, but so be it. I far prefer his longer films. The film-a-year approach he adopted in his latter years had very mixed results. I realize this is heresy, but frankly very few of them are anywhere near the pantheon of MO, let alone cinema generally. He became famous in arthouse circles for being OLD. And when he used Deneuve and other famous but uncomprehending actors, it just got worse. "Belle Toujours" and the horrendous last half of "A Talking Picture", are rather terrible. Did love that film about the girl in the window he made toward the end.

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John Cope
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Re: Manoel de Oliveira (1908-2015)

#54 Post by John Cope » Mon Aug 21, 2017 4:15 am

You're right that he did gain much of his notoriety and fame in large part for his age but that's not his fault. And I would agree that the 00's were not exactly peak Oliveira but they still offer up much that is exceptional. For me at least his peak period actually ends with Magic Mirror in '05 which is also, not coincidentally, his last feature with prime partner Agustina Bessa-Luís (those collaborations are my favorite of his work as they are all so very rich and he does a marvelous job of translating very difficult literary text). It's not insignificant either that after this begins his genuinely late period of far shorter features, often with barely feature length running time. I do think Talking Picture is excellent, though, yes, mostly for its first half. And though the shorter pieces could often be frustratingly slight they're also often exquisite miniatures (as is the one you refer to with the girl in the window, Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl and Christopher Columbus-The Enigma as well). And his final couple of films, both real shorts of under 20 minutes, are superb, evidencing a still active and vital mind even as the staging became necessarily more minimal (while still always elegant). As to the inclusion of famous actors, I have to admit that it never bothered me as they almost always seem to be implemented well and some (say, Piccoli, maybe even Malkovich) seem to be especially compatible with Oliveira and his methods.

Stefan Andersson
Joined: Thu Nov 15, 2007 1:02 am

Re: Manoel de Oliveira (1908-2015)

#55 Post by Stefan Andersson » Tue Aug 22, 2017 11:28 am

This article by Rita Benis seems worth searching out:

Benis, R. (2017), ‘The censorship of Manoel de Oliveira’s screenplays during the Salazar Dictatorship in Portugal (1933−74)’, Journal of Screenwriting, 8:2, pp. 147–59

http://web.a.ebscohost.com/abstract?dir ... d124515658" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Manoel de Oliveira (1908-2015)

#56 Post by Stefan Andersson » Fri May 17, 2019 4:56 pm

Scroll down to April 19, 2019, for an article in Portuguese about MO´s plans for a project called O Palco de Um Povo. Acto da Primavera, O Pao (1959), As Pinturas do Meu Irmao Julio and other films were intended as parts of this project:
http://actodeprimavera.blogspot.com/201 ... ra-20.html
Article also makes brief mentions of MO´s other unfinished projects.

Stefan Andersson
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Re: Manoel de Oliveira (1908-2015)

#57 Post by Stefan Andersson » Fri May 24, 2019 9:23 am

Extract from A 2003 interview with MO:
http://www.ocec.eu/cinemacomparativecin ... -is-cinema

Blog posts about Day of Despair:
https://casadecamilo.wordpress.com/tag/ ... desespero/

Stefan Andersson
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Re: Manoel de Oliveira (1908-2015)

#58 Post by Stefan Andersson » Sat May 25, 2019 3:35 pm

An article about Antonio Preto´s book "O Cinema Inventado a Létra":
https://100mim.wordpress.com/2012/09/27 ... nio-preto/

Basic notes on themes in MO´s films:
http://mikegrost.com/oliveira.htm#Oliveira

Collection of short notes on some of MO´s films:
https://worldscinema.org/category/manoel-de-oliveira/

Brief notes on some of MO´s short subjects:
https://festival.curtas.pt/pesquisa/film/?id=2009210

Stefan Andersson
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Re: Manoel de Oliveira (1908-2015)

#59 Post by Stefan Andersson » Fri Nov 22, 2019 4:51 pm

A defense of Portuguese film, by MO (2010), in Spanish:
https://intermediodvd.wordpress.com/tag ... -oliveira/

Stefan Andersson
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Re: Manoel de Oliveira (1908-2015)

#60 Post by Stefan Andersson » Fri Nov 22, 2019 5:37 pm

A recent interview with Jacques Parsi on MO:
https://www.todasasmusas.com.br/20_E01.pdf

Stefan Andersson
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Re: Manoel de Oliveira (1908-2015)

#61 Post by Stefan Andersson » Fri Nov 22, 2019 5:57 pm

Articles about various film versions of La Princesse de Clèves (re: A Carta):
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10 ... ccess=true
https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/fil ... W_2013.pdf

Stefan Andersson
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Re: Manoel de Oliveira (1908-2015)

#62 Post by Stefan Andersson » Fri Nov 22, 2019 7:17 pm

Paulo Branco tells stories of working with MO and other directors:
https://www.sofilm.fr/interview-paulo-b ... e-legendes

Stefan Andersson
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Re: Manoel de Oliveira (1908-2015)

#63 Post by Stefan Andersson » Sat Nov 23, 2019 7:15 pm

Study guide to Aniki-Bobo:
http://event.institutfrancais.com/uploa ... bdf4ef.pdf

On As Terras do Risco, a novel by Agustina Bessa-Luis (basis for The Convent):
https://www.cnc.pt/as-terras-do-risco-d ... essa-luis/
http://seer.uftm.edu.br/revistaeletroni ... /view/1300 - includes link to a downloadable pdf

Brief info about contents of En une poignee des mains amies, a Jean Rouch short subject about a conversation between Rouch and MO:
https://www.torinofilmfest.org/en/18-to ... er.../539/

Also, MO on Angelica:
https://www.lexpress.fr/culture/cinema/ ... 72958.html

Stefan Andersson
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Re: Manoel de Oliveira (1908-2015)

#64 Post by Stefan Andersson » Mon Nov 25, 2019 3:37 pm

A detailed study of MO´s work on Angelica:
https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal ... 8/document

Interview, 1998:
https://www.telerama.fr/cinema/manoel-d ... 124951.php

A scholarly article on A Carta:
https://ler.letras.up.pt/uploads/ficheiros/11377.pdf

On MO and the poet Fernando Pessoa (who is quoted in several films by MO):
https://journals.openedition.org/recherchestravaux/675 - page has a link to a downloadable pdf of the text

Useful list of articles in French periodicals:
http://www.cineressources.net/articles_ ... rche=18430

Stefan Andersson
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Re: Manoel de Oliveira (1908-2015)

#65 Post by Stefan Andersson » Tue Nov 26, 2019 9:20 am

Memories of shooting Nice...a propos de Jean Vigo, written by assistant director Francois Ede:
https://www.cinematheque.fr/article/995.html

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Manoel de Oliveira (1908-2015)

#66 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Dec 16, 2019 7:18 pm

I don’t know if there’s a better place to throw this but I watched The Convent twice in the last week and am still reeling from the experience, even if I’m struggling to get a grasp on the content. Particularly the character of Piedade (her conversation with Baltar is a scene for the ages) as a potential angelic-human hybrid, as Baltar is the same from Satan, that challenges him into confronting his own cognitive/“thought” trappings, as well as emotional, that he seems to look down at Malkovich for having. Perhaps they aren’t human but they appear to have human components, “flaws” in being able to be drawn to love, emotions, and unable to access, controls or be fully aware of their cognitions. Baltar even seems anxious and upset at not being able to know what Malkovich said to her, a kind of Sartre’s “hell is other people” idea in feeling small through jealousy of not having power, ultimate knowledge, or being able to be loved as much as another. Maybe this is related to the earlier Faust quotations about the devil and man being parts of a whole, together; which I imagine Piedade comes in to fill the other side of that coin as a member of God’s company even if she’s just as ‘human’ and unaware as Baltar is, though with enough access to some spiritual guidance to be drawn to this vague wisdom during their intensely cryptic conversation in the woods.

The intensified loud musical score at times felt like the kind that wants its audience to recognize manufactured artificiality but this seemed to be positioned towards deepening the feeling of conflict under the skin of the milieu, as evidenced by the shady groundskeepers’ spying and dismissal of prioritizing spiritual practices over corporeal ones (i.e. the “idiots” remark about the monks), the wife’s hidden jealousies that have more to do with selfish pride than love, and the devil’s own internal conflicts that he buries under a blanket of caricature traits and simplified evil perspectives when his essence is just as complex as a full human. Also, what happens in those woods to cause such a fire? The blending of emotionally expressive and vulnerable angels and demons, the angel entering a cursed space to set off a kind of chemically balanced bomb, or the opposite where this is triggered by humanity of the demon trying to save the angel?

I’m curious what do others make of the film’s content and thematic interest, whether in response to those scattered thoughts or a completely different approach to understanding or appreciating the film?

And what are recommendations of places to go next in his filmography from here (I’ve seen The Strange Case of Angelica and his first short on that disc, but this was by far my favorite between the two - and I liked those films a lot).

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swo17
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Re: Manoel de Oliveira (1908-2015)

#67 Post by swo17 » Mon Dec 16, 2019 7:28 pm

Sorry, I haven't seen all of these films in too long to speak to any details, but I want to say that next you should seek out Os canibais and the 7-hour Satin Slipper

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knives
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Re: Manoel de Oliveira (1908-2015)

#68 Post by knives » Mon Dec 16, 2019 7:40 pm

Satin Slipper is great. It makes a good companion to Rohmer's Perceval. Non is my favorite film of his and the one that I find makes the best use of his style.

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John Cope
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Re: Manoel de Oliveira (1908-2015)

#69 Post by John Cope » Tue Dec 17, 2019 6:10 am

The Convent is indeed great and remains one of his most underrated even as it remains among his most easy to see. Actually, I'm currently finishing a piece on both this and Party, the film made right after this one. They share a lot in common, perhaps most especially the focus on a fluid, intermixing pair of couples in extended dialogues. And this is really my focus as these films are also collaborations-of-a-sort with the great Portuguese novelist Agustina Bessa-Luís, one of Oliveira's most frequent collaborators. These are my own favorites of his films and it's where my own interest most heavily lies as this direct collaboration with a contemporary allowed for much more push and pull than the other frequent literary or stage adaptations. The Convent is notable for being a project which Oliveira pitched to Agustina, suggesting she write the novel which he could then adapt. The book was not ready in time, however, so he took the basics and freely adapted it which led to criticism from the novelist, especially as her book was very different in a number of respects. But their relationship was often playfully contentious like that and it's hard to know how seriously to take the objections.

Piedade embodies a character frequently appearing in Agustina's novels and the subsequent Oliveira adaptations, that specifically of the feminine mystery (e.g. Camila in The Uncertainty Principle, Fanny Owen in Francisca, Fisalina in Inquietude, and Ema in Vale Abraão, who is the supreme pinnacle of such a figure). There was dispute again between the writer and the director over this, the figure itself and the meaning of this focus with Agustina downplaying the significance some but again her own writing would seem to belie that , heightening the irony of it. For his part, Oliveira's emphasis upon the mystery of his figures and scenarios simply complements the significance of artifice in his work, similarly emphasized for its meaning while often acknowledged directly as flat or "artificial".

Outside of these collaborations, I would most highly recommend Acto da Primavera (aka Rite of Spring), Mon cas, the aforementioned Non, The Fifth Empire, and La lettre, which is another film that very much revolves around a female mystery figure but which in this case was adapted from the classic novel La Princesse de Clèves. The other adaptations of this book (The Beautiful Person by Christophe Honoré and Fidelity by Andrzej Żuławski) are also of interest, both revealing and instructive, though I don't think either of them touches the accomplishment of La lettre. Satin Slipper is, of course, phenomenal, but not easy to see. Of those that still are I would recommend Voyage to the Beginning of the World and A Talking Picture, though even they may be getting hard to find now. Someone obviously needs to do something to rectify this.
Last edited by John Cope on Tue Dec 17, 2019 1:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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furbicide
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Re: Manoel de Oliveira (1908-2015)

#70 Post by furbicide » Tue Dec 17, 2019 7:04 am

Francisca was a revelation for me, and Benilde, the Virgin Mother and My Case are really good too if a little more austere. I’ve just started on The Divine Comedy and am really enjoying it!
knives wrote:
Mon Dec 16, 2019 7:40 pm
Satin Slipper is great. It makes a good companion to Rohmer's Perceval.
Given Perceval is one of my absolute favourite films, this has moved well up my to-see list now! Just have to brace myself for the *gulp* 7-hour running time. :)

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knives
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Re: Manoel de Oliveira (1908-2015)

#71 Post by knives » Tue Dec 17, 2019 7:43 am

Those hours fly by. It's one of his lightest moving films.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Manoel de Oliveira (1908-2015)

#72 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Dec 18, 2019 5:22 pm

Thanks for the suggestions everyone! I enjoyed Os canibais, thought I'm Going Home and Gebo were solid but not great, and absolutely loved Non and A Talking Picture, even if yet again I struggle to pinpoint why or what these films are doing to excite me. I'll be moving onto Satin Slipper and the other recs soon, and have a few more coming from the library, including Party (speaking of, should I be seeking out the full 210-minute version of Vale Abraão elsewhere, rather than the 187-minute one available on dvd?)
John Cope wrote:
Tue Dec 17, 2019 6:10 am
The Convent is indeed great and remains one of his most underrated even as it remains among his most easy to see. Actually, I'm currently finishing a piece on both this and Party, the film made right after this one. They share a lot in common, perhaps most especially the focus on a fluid, intermixing pair of couples in extended dialogues. And this is really my focus as these films are also collaborations-of-a-sort with the great Portuguese novelist Agustina Bessa-Luís, one of Oliveira's most frequent collaborators. These are my own favorites of his films and it's where my own interest most heavily lies as this direct collaboration with a contemporary allowed for much more push and pull than the other frequent literary or stage adaptations. The Convent is notable for being a project which Oliveira pitched to Agustina, suggesting she write the novel which he could then adapt. The book was not ready in time, however, so he took the basics and freely adapted it which led to criticism from the novelist, especially as her book was very different in a number of respects. But their relationship was often playfully contentious like that and it's hard to know how seriously to take the objections.

Piedade embodies a character frequently appearing in Agustina's novels and the subsequent Oliveira adaptations, that specifically of the feminine mystery
If it's kosher, I'd be curious to read that piece when you're finished, John! I can get behind the idea of the "feminine mystery" permeating some of these works, especially The Convent, but I'm wondering if you find there to be a subtext - whether inclusive of this, or in addition to it - that positions a religious/spiritual force amongst humanity?

At least in the few films of his I've loved so far (Non, A Talking Picture, Angelica, The Convent) I've sensed this presence of inexplicable, intangible "truth," with characters attempting to access it through philosophy, history, linguistically, or physically, but all seems reduced to "myth" (to use language from Non) out of reach and impenetrable, or at least vocalized as potentially meaningless, which begets existential dysphoria. Maybe I'm off base from what others see, but I would think this feminine mystery would fit with this unknowable nature of the cosmos by placing that barrier into human form of the opposite sex as MO's perspective, thus keeping his own vision humbly limited and yet from that surrender of abilities, optimistically spiritual in accepting his right-sized position while believing in something more, and simultaneously validating the characters who crave this knowledge and control, and fight acceptance from the ego-induced anxiety of the human need to control and be omniscient.

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John Cope
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Re: Manoel de Oliveira (1908-2015)

#73 Post by John Cope » Thu Dec 19, 2019 5:08 am

I will be glad to send you a link when that piece goes up. Thanks for the interest.
therewillbeblus wrote:
Wed Dec 18, 2019 5:22 pm
Thanks for the suggestions everyone! I enjoyed Os canibais, thought I'm Going Home and Gebo were solid but not great, and absolutely loved Non and A Talking Picture, even if yet again I struggle to pinpoint why or what these films are doing to excite me. I'll be moving onto Satin Slipper and the other recs soon, and have a few more coming from the library, including Party (speaking of, should I be seeking out the full 210-minute version of Vale Abraão elsewhere, rather than the 187-minute one available on dvd?)
Definitely seek out the long cut of Vale Abraão if you can find it. Not only for the obvious reason but also because the trimmed US DVD is a godawful abomination, one of the worst transfers of a film of quality I have ever seen (the aspect ratio is compressed so that images are stretched and warped and the entire film is dubbed in French for whatever reason). This is my favorite film of his (and my favorite film period) so obviously I would like you to see it as properly as possible and I would very much like a Blu transfer from somebody somewhere for us all.
therewillbeblus wrote:I can get behind the idea of the "feminine mystery" permeating some of these works, especially The Convent, but I'm wondering if you find there to be a subtext - whether inclusive of this, or in addition to it - that positions a religious/spiritual force amongst humanity?

At least in the few films of his I've loved so far (Non, A Talking Picture, Angelica, The Convent) I've sensed this presence of inexplicable, intangible "truth," with characters attempting to access it through philosophy, history, linguistically, or physically, but all seems reduced to "myth" (to use language from Non) out of reach and impenetrable, or at least vocalized as potentially meaningless, which begets existential dysphoria. Maybe I'm off base from what others see, but I would think this feminine mystery would fit with this unknowable nature of the cosmos by placing that barrier into human form of the opposite sex as MO's perspective, thus keeping his own vision humbly limited and yet from that surrender of abilities, optimistically spiritual in accepting his right-sized position while believing in something more, and simultaneously validating the characters who crave this knowledge and control, and fight acceptance from the ego-induced anxiety of the human need to control and be omniscient.
Yes, absolutely. Oliveira is among the most religious/spiritual filmmakers, masterfully integrating those aspects and interests with cultural and social ones, blending them into larger portraits of civilization itself. And, yes, I agree with your understanding of what the feminine mystery is representative of for him.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Manoel de Oliveira (1908-2015)

#74 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Dec 19, 2019 1:45 pm

John Cope wrote:
Thu Dec 19, 2019 5:08 am
Definitely seek out the long cut of Vale Abraão if you can find it. Not only for the obvious reason but also because the trimmed US DVD is a godawful abomination, one of the worst transfers of a film of quality I have ever seen (the aspect ratio is compressed so that images are stretched and warped and the entire film is dubbed in French for whatever reason). This is my favorite film of his (and my favorite film period) so obviously I would like you to see it as properly as possible and I would very much like a Blu transfer from somebody somewhere for us all.
Thanks for the tip, I've canceled my library order and located the other cut (seems to be 312 minutes?) - Looking forward to it!

Have you or anyone read Randal Johnson's book on MO, and if so is it worth a read? I believe it's the only English-friendly book on him and I'm eager for any academic analysis of his work.

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John Cope
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Re: Manoel de Oliveira (1908-2015)

#75 Post by John Cope » Fri Dec 20, 2019 4:50 am

therewillbeblus wrote:
Thu Dec 19, 2019 1:45 pm
Have you or anyone read Randal Johnson's book on MO, and if so is it worth a read? I believe it's the only English-friendly book on him and I'm eager for any academic analysis of his work.
Yes, the Johnson book is an excellent introduction as is the Dekalog collection of essays. As you mention though, they do have the benefit of having rather cornered the market on the subject, being the only English language volumes available at present.

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