It has been almost a year since I added another country to my list. I have been so focussed on finishing off the Best Picture list and on progressing with the 1001 list that I have been forgetting to look at this one.
I guess that Portuguese stall at Startisans (and the £30 I ended up spending) helped inspire me. I mean, why not go whole hog and eat Portuguese food whilst watching a Portuguese movie.
My pick for Portugal, A Canção de Lisboa, is the second talkie that was made in Portugal. A musical comedy (where the music happens more organically than your regular musical) that remains popular to this day in its native country. A phrase from the film, which literally translated means “there are many hats, you fool”, has even entered the Portuguese lexicon.
As a comedy from the 1930s there are a lot of elements that I can recognise. The deadbeat womanizing man who lies and sponges off his aunts whilst he fails his exams to become a doctor. He loses everything and then makes good in the end. The woman with the Louise Brooks style bobbed cut who dumps him only to take him back in the end. Disapproving rich relatives. Yes, it’s a pretty standard formula, but it’s the touches of rather odd one-liners and fado music that make this film what it is.
I don’t quite get how someone like Vasco (the lead) can be a great womanizer as he looks like a cross between Fatty Arbuckle and Steve Pemberton in Tubbs make-up. I guess that’s Portugal for you? I mean, he even knows what the mastoid is so…. swoon?
My favourite musical number of the film is that depicted in the picture. It’s a small festival involving balloons (or possibly lanterns) being set alight. In the musical number the fighting couple have essentially made effigies of each other and sing about their problems. It’s quite a fun number in a strange way.
Not as fun or as strange as one that Alice, the girlfriend, later sings after winning a sewing competition. That number about the needle and the handsome thimble just gets weirder and weirder. Then again, that’s Portugal for you.