João César Monteiro  



Portuguese director of a wide variety of experimental and arthouse films. These range from early-Godard-inspired freeform whimsies mixed with poetry, to period folk tales with elements of mythology and magic (Silvestre/Veredas), to rambling slow dramas, to whimsical comedies about an old pervert. Recurring elements include heavy use of traditional ballads and folk tales, singing performances, recitals of poetry and quotes from plays, Bunuelian pokes at fascism or religion, difficult use of language and random intellectual whimsy, long static takes, and, in later movies, the constant casting of himself as an old pervert who frequently gets to fondle and use young women, giving a free hand to his fetishes and dirty whims. His most extreme experiment was 'Branca de Neve' (Snow White), which featured mostly a black screen while the soundtrack plays. In short, a one of a kind eccentric who will only appeal to a few, and who used cinema to express both dirty and poetic whims. Died in 2003.

Of Some Interest

Spousals of God, The (As Bodas de Deus)  
Monteiro's character of João de Deus reaches a kind of peak here as part satirical symbol, part clown, part lecherous and perverted old goat, part wise old man constantly reciting poetry. The movie starts with him clowning around in a park making a mess in the pond and urinating on a tree while hiding behind a leaf (Adam in Eden?) when suddenly a messenger of God arrives to give him a suitcase full of money. He then goes through various adventures brought on by his money which lead him to his downfall: He saves a woman from drowning and gives her to a nunnery, becomes a rich Baron, gambles fortunes away with an oil shiek, and bets ownership of a mysterious woman whom he falls in love with, while keeping his money in a bizarre safe behind the face of a god. A surreal scene in an opera features a midget dictator surrounded by mannequins, and an opera singer that bares her breasts in protest. The movie shifts from random poetic or Godardesque musings to a Bunuelian comedy of manners, to random clowning around, to light satire and intellectual pokes at fascism and religion, to indulgent scenes of a dirty old man playing sexual games with a young girl, including a very undignified and endless sex scene that ends with a joke at his own expense. Dialog and actions are always unpredictable and playful, including this little example: "Is it true that garlic leads to chastity?", "Only a vampire can give you an exact answer", or the scene where Deus piles food onto his plate then is unable to touch it, a funny case of his eyes being hungrier than his body. Altogether not really cohesive in any way, and full of dirty indulgences, but absurdly entertaining, poetic and satirical in scattered moments.

Fragments of an Alms-Film  
Basically, a performance-art film by way of Godard on the topic of family, in what feels like an artsy polemic against the conventional family unit and a husband's role. This is Monteiro's first full length and consists of a sequence of long-take scenes designed to explore the family unit: There are physical performances of stress, tension, consolation and violence between man and wife, there is a confrontational scene reminiscent of 'Idioten' with in-laws who keep talking about the husband's lack of responsiblity and job while he crouches in a pig mask, and there are some fascinating scenes of games between the man and his son that consist of ad-libbing, provocative questions, creative imagination and physical games. There are also pretentious pseudo-provocative speeches on gender, recitals of poetry, or on the metaphorical qualities of a fruit, and a sex scene is appended with an unknown purpose. Of some interest.

Worthless

Come and Go  
This is the kind of movie that divides between the elitist pretentious who are unable to explain what the movie is about, and the rest of us that pull our hair out due to sheer boredom. Monteiro's last film features him in a similar role to his ongoing João de Deus character, except this time his lecherous games with young girls are aimed at a series of increasingly bizarre maids that come to his house for the job, and involve mostly dirty talk blended into intellectual discussions. There's the one that paints her toenails and asks for honey for her period while he scrubs the carpet and declares his admiration for her, a folk dance with one leads to a burluesque farting roleplay, and then there's the girl with a beard on both her chin and her nether regions. In between, we get to die of boredom from endless scenes of him taking part of 'daily life', sitting in the park or on a bus, talking to various people about anything ranging from aggressive blowjob techniques mixed with politics, to Hitler's ideologies, or various banalities. He also sings an endless ballad to a policewoman while waiting for his convict son, and there's a climax involving a 2-foot prosthetic phallus and surgery (is this what he thinks life did to him?) that will have you scratching your head. Three hours of self-indulgent randomness that never becomes rewarding, despite some short moments of amusement.

Hips of John Wayne, The  
Bafflingly whimsical hodge-podge of scenes and elements, as exemplified by the various writers behind the movie that were stitched together for this seemingly empty-headed indulgence of a movie. There's a play of Lucifer and God supposedly based on Strindberg but which comes off as a childish Sadean poke at Christianity by depicting God as an old horny catty fool who does nothing but hang around his angels while Lucifer attempts to help humanity evolve and learn valuable lessons. Of course, Monteiro casts himself as God and surrounds himself with a dozen young 'angels' for fondling purposes. Then it falls apart: Random dialogue about everything and nothing, sailor doppelgangers called Monteiro, recurring themes of mules and John Wayne's hips, including a long 'intellectual' discussion on the meaning of J.W.'s swinging hips in the North Pole, and a bizarre restaurant for children as well as neo-Nazis who strip girls only to cover them with a swastika, where Monteiro has a horny attack and calls for a prostitute who appears out of nowhere like a genie, leading to a gratuitous scene of urination. And then a tediously long and dull home-rehearsal of yet another uninteresting and unrelated play before a final joke involving a mule and the North Pole. And no, the movie doesn't get any more cohesive than this review.




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