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A Talking Picture (2003)

Cast: Leonor Silveira, Filipa de Almeida, John Malkovich, more...
Director: Manoel De Oliveira
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Kino
Genre: Foreign, France, Italy, Portugal, Quest, Road Movies
Running Time: 93 min.
Languages: French, Portuguese
Subtitles: English
    see additional details...

Synopsis
Elder statesman of Portuguese filmmaking Manoel de Oliveira directs the dialogue-driven drama A Talking Picture. Starting in Lisbon, the film involves a Mediterranean cruise with mother Rosa Maria (Leonor Silveira) and daughter Maria Joana (Filipa de Almedia). From France to Turkey, the tourists travel to various stops as Rosa Maria talks to her daughter about world history. Several international stars show up in cameo roles, including John Malkovich, Irene Papas, Catherine Deneuve, and Stefania Sandrelli -- each speaking in his or her native language. A Talking Picture was shown in competition at the 2003 Venice Film Festival. ~ Andrea LeVasseur, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Enjoyable first 90 minutes. by rpmfla December 7, 2006 - 11:00 AM PST
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1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
As this film went along, I found myself thinking of all of my friends and co-workers I would tell about it. Working in an art history department, the travelogue aspect of the film would be a big hit, and one of our professors has a young daughter about the age of the one in this film. This travelogue takes up the first 2/3 of the film.
The last 1/3 of the film, a dialogue in the vein of "My Dinner with Andre", was also fairly interesting, though a bit stilted, so I was still thinking of who to recommend it to.
However, while I can understand the message of the ending and can see how the stark realism of it in contrast to the intellectual and aesthetic tone of the rest of the movie works, I still was very disappointed with it.
I shouldn't really say anything more so as to not ruin the ending for new viewers, but I won't be recommending it to the professor with the young daughter.

Beautiful shots but no Plot by FKatrishen August 2, 2005 - 7:53 PM PDT
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2 out of 4 members found this review helpful
The movie is a series of often beautiful shots in international ports but this is not enough to sustain a movie. The movie needed a plot.


There is one particularly beautiful shot in an Egyptian restaurant of the actors with a lush painting in the background, between them and the painting is a woman completely veiled in black. The contrasts are startling. Other shots are not so fascinating. The director seems to love to take shots out of focus of people from a distance, or focus on peoples backs or sides or view them through windows. This is distracting after awhile, and I wanted to see the actors facial expressions.

I thought the director was experimenting and, because he was 90, he didn't care if people like what he does. Perhaps the director was trying emulate the visual techniques of Yasujiro Ozu, but Ozu's movies were sucessful not just because he had beautiful shots that look like lush paintings. Unlike De Oliviera, Ozu has compelling characters that evolve during the movie, plot and sub-plots that make his picture fascinating.

The movie guide gives an accurate description of "A Talking Picture" and the title is appropriate. It is a series of pictures with the actors either talking about history or, in the second segment, about a diverse range of topics.

The dialogue and relationships add up to nothing. There is no plot and no character development. In the first half of the movie, the main character, a history professor, is telling her daughter some historical facts about places. The daughter interacts with her mother in a very unnatural way only feeding her questions about history so her mother can continue her lectures.

In the second part of the movie, the actors sit at the dinner table on the ship and discuss diverse topics in their own languages. We are suppose to believe that they can all understand Greek, English, French and Italian (but no Portuguese) but there is no explanation for why except that it "feels natural to converse this way". The novelty of listening to multiple languages wears off fast since, again, the dialogue has nothing to do with what happened before or after those scenes. The dialogue was very stilted and I thought either the actors were ad-libbing their lines or the writer/director was writing them as he went along.

The movie ended abruptly and with a totally unexpected event. I won't give away the ending but I will tell you that a giant squid could have eaten the ship or aliens could have kidnapped the actors and that would have been as plausible an ending as the one in the movie. The ending served to do just that: End the picture and stop the talking.



Where Are We Going? by talltale April 8, 2005 - 7:21 AM PDT
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7 out of 7 members found this review helpful
With A TALKING PICTURE, Portuguese director Manoel De Oliveira (he's in his 90s!) bounces back from his earlier disappointment "I'm Going Home" with this remarkable film about history, civilization, life and death. It's a simple movie: a mother (she's a history teacher) travels with her daughter via luxury liner from Portugal to India. Along the way, mom points out and explains the significance of many landmarks, and the viewer becomes the surrogate daughter, taking in the director's thoughts and ideas.

Visually, the film is stunning for its first half, at least. The landmarks--everything from Egypt's Sphinx to Turkey's cathedral/mosque--are shown at their most beautiful. During the final half, the film stuns in another manner, by concentrating on three shipmates and the captain (played by Catherine Deneuve, Stefania Sandrelli, Irene Papas and John Malkovich) who trade yet more ideas on these same subjects and branch out into the roles of men and women in history/society. These three women, each an icon of her country (France, Italy, Greece) seem to represent those countries, as does Malkovich for America. While their repartee may appear a bit stilted, it is never less than fascinating--full of ideas you can agree with or not. Then comes the finale, which is staggering in both concept and execution.

I owe Mr. De Oliveira an apology. After watching "I'm Going Home," I suggested that retirement was in order. I am so grateful he's gone on to make this quietly amazing movie that I promise to keep my mouth shut from now on regarding matters that are clearly--and thank goodness for it-- not up to me.




GreenCine Member Rating
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(Average 5.64)
25 Votes
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