The Strange Case of Angelica
GO THE STRANGE CASE OF ANGELICA In 1952, Manoel de Oliveira sketched a fable of impossible longing that became, finally, The Strange Case of Angelica. Though the automobile models in de Oliveira's 2010 film are modern, many plot details remain of the period of its writing. On a torrentially rainy night, the Portas estate sends a servant into town to fetch the photographer, apparently owner of the only camera in town. He is needed to take — another archaic detail — a death portrait of the family's daughter, Angelica. The professional photographer being away, a young dilettante named Isaac (Ricardo Trepa, the director's grandson) arrives instead. Entering the Portas manor, Isaac finds his model (Pilar López de Ayala) spread on a fainting couch, nestling a bouquet of lilies. That she is fresh and beautiful in death is his first surprise; his second comes when, visible only through his viewfinder, she seems to open her eyes and smile. That smile grows large enough to blot out Isaac's life. Angelica's image on photographic prints haunts him, and one night she manifests in Isaac's room — or dreams — as a phosphorescent specter that peels his own soul free of his body and takes it, in her embrace, soaring through the night sky. The effects by which this is realized are shoddy by any contemporary standards, but presented with an infectious wonderment. De Oliveira, ancient at 102, has firsthand memory of a world of emperors and archdukes. The unique aura this imparts to his films cannot be forgotten when watching them. (Nick Pinkerton) (Music Hall)
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