Edgar PÍra  

Impossible to peg and highly eccentric and experimental Portuguese film-maker. Started with rock videos, made some bizarre and humorous movies, some experimental and playful impressions and documentaries of various artists such as architects and musicians, as well as several comedies with highly eccentric and often silly humor. In many ways, a Portuguese variation of Guy Maddin, mostly in the sense that he is constantly experimenting with cinema. But several of his movies also take this comparison to Maddin further, being enamored with various retro-cinema techniques and with reproducing the look-and-feel of cinema of the past, and he also has Maddin's penchant for odd, eccentric, obscure and sometimes twisted humor. Whereas Maddin tends more towards art-house and a dramatic flair combined with a perverse sense of humor, however, PÍra is more iconoclastic, wild and even campy and can also sometimes combine retro-cinema and avant-garde modernities together. In short, an interesting, highly experimental film-maker with an unapologetic sense of humor and fun, although he can surprise with conventional comedies as well like 'Turned Inside Out'.

Of Some Interest

A Janela (Maryalva Mix)  
Cartoonishly weird comedy from Portugal by Edgar PÍra, who pulls out another bonkers post-editing job. The theme seems to be a portrayal of the quintessential Portuguese man and woman, split into multiple personalities, because, as we all know, Portugal has the highest amount of schizophrenics. A man called Antonio is stabbed. His many female lovers take their turn in talking about Antonio, each one acted by the same woman, each describing a completely different man, acted by a different actor. One talks about a possible murder conspiracy, and Antonio himself talks about his many lovers and secret lives, but then Ego comes along to confuse things further. The acting is over-the-top, the characters are broadly drawn, they interact and prance in the streets of Lisbon with cartoonish slapstick, the hyper-editing uses split screens, color filters, warped footage and sound, and whatnot, all coming together for a uniquely silly, weird and wacky experience that you probably have to be Portuguese to appreciate.

Amazed Spectator, The  
Most of Edgar PÍra's documentaries and biographies combine standard interviews and historical footage with a series of images, sounds and words inspired by the artist, blended together in a multimedia editing job. Some documentaries like this one, however, combine the documentary footage with slightly more surreal scenes and images. In this case, the topic is spectators and audiences, the various types of spectators and their psychological variations and involvements, combined with Edgar PÍra's surreal short A Caverna. Talking-heads discuss various aspects of the psychology and sociology of an audience, while a group of people is shown living in a cinema, living, sleeping, socializing and eating in the cinema in between their spectating. Their social interactions develop, they have parties, sex, wear bizarre masks, etc. This is also combined with the theme covered in '3x3D' where characters on the screen burst out of the screen and interact with the audience, only here it's covered with more mature and fun visuals. It's a society living firmly within the context of cinema entertainment, with the act of spectating now become much more intimate, complex and real. The talking heads are combined with audiences in endless creative ways, with superimpositions, interactions, the audience interviewing the experts and vice versa, and the footage is combined using various visual effects, with several things going on all at once, Greenaway-style. Guy Maddin also makes an appearance.

Baron, The  
Try to imagine a retro-30s Dracula movie written as a Kafka-esque gothic horror in Portuguese with stylish subtitles as filmed by Guy Maddin, except that everyone involved fell asleep midway and kept on filming while dreaming the rest of the movie. A school inspector who hates travelling and people throwing up in his carriage, rides an ominous horse-driven wagon to a mysterious village run by an even more mysterious Baron. Everyone defers to the highly eccentric Baron, who promptly takes a liking to the inspector and attempts to bully and seduce him into staying, taking him to his castle for various entertainments. They talk about past loves and relationships with women, have a strange conversation about University degrees, play awkward social games over the topic of food and a mysterious maid, an impromptu group of people nicknamed the Orchestra break out in strange song, and dream-like horrors involving monsters and fires fade into the narrative. Somewhere along the way, the Baron with his confidence and control and magic achieves a mythical status and it stops making any sense, with seemingly pointless scenes and conversations going on forever, but the cinematography and atmosphere have long gone into a dreamlike state in any case so it doesn't matter. A film to dream, not to watch. I would have liked a bit more meat to chew on though.

Manual of Evasion  
Portuguese thought-provoking experimental movie by Edgar PÍra with a great potential for cult status. This is a very dense 50 minute movie featuring deep thoughts by cult personalities Rudy Rucker, Terence McKenna and others, while PÍra fills the screen with a wide variety of striking, absurd and mind-warping imagery, making me think sometimes that Dada is alive and well. Time is explored from many unusual angles, the narration sharing thoughts and new ways of looking at time, while the movie shows vignettes featuring actors acting out bizarre scenes, many of them expressionistic and comical. A 'short-time mob' is described, workers have conversations about strange events and sexual practices in some kind of clock laboratory, there are strange, campy, mad scientists and cultists performing experiments and exchanging electricity, there's a scene of sailors in a dome-structure evading a big swinging pendulum, a manager fondles a female clerk and eroticizes rubber stamps in an absurd attack on the commercial working man, and the narration deconstructs time then demands the need to rise above it. This is just the tip of the iceberg, and it all unravels somewhat towards the end with its new-age attitude, but this is a must-see once for fans of the experimental movie.

Muddy River  
Based on a story by Branquinho da Fonseca who also wrote the short story The Baron. As opposed to that surreal and highly visual movie adaptation however, this one is more philosophical and symbolic with more meat to chew on, and features a Kafka-esque setting. A worker prone to existential musing arrives at a remote location in the wild, at a river tributary, to build an airport. Except that they always seem to be preparing for the work and never progressing, and the locals are all social archetypes: A control-freak bureaucrat, a large fighter, a strange scientist, etc as well as a goat that eats reports, a midget with pretensions of royalty that keeps getting dumped in the river, a symbolic river of time that carries everything and gets 'muddy', and a woman that everyone wants who rapidly becomes a mythical unattainable object. There is music, amusing social interactions that can also be interpreted symbolically, existential musing and provocative questions, and some surreal dream-sequences.

A half-length from PÍra combining his quirky approach to documentaries on artists, and ideas presented as slapstick with a variety of cinema techniques and a busy montage, as with Manual of Evasion. The subject here is Almada Negreiros, a Portuguese modernist, artist and iconoclast labelled as an agitator who wrote often against conformism and traditionalists and tried to provoke modern, libertarian and futurist attitudes and progress. This in addition to his art that took many forms. PÍra selects several Negreiros texts, presents them in a hectic montage, his actors reading highlighted statements or poems energetically, acting out absurd theatrical visions of future society or war in slapstick intensity, taking part in silly libertarian sexual encounters embracing debauchery, or just simply bursting out and living in the now, decrying the stuck, defeatist and nostalgic conformists in society.

See Jean-Luc Godard.

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