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April 3 - 6, 2015

The Road to Macao. The Floating Worlds of João Pedro Rodrigues and João Rui Guerra da Mata

Working steadily over the past few years, Portuguese co-directors João Pedro Rodrigues and João Rui Guerra da Mata have created a series of striking and unusually polymorphic films which sit not between but rather beyond the traditionally defined documentary and narrative film. The Last Time I Saw Macao, the best known of their recent works, announced a clear break from the artists' previous work together on three celebrated Rodrigues-directed features, O Fantasma (2000), Odete/Two Drifters (2005) and To Die Like a Man (2009); narrative films each exploring desire as an uncanny and inexorable force that, quite literally, transforms the films' protagonists into bodies that morph in willful defiance of the strict hetro- and homo-sexual binary typically imposed on and by the dominant cinema. Although directly inspired by Da Mata's memories of his childhood years in Macao and the distance, the saudade, of the thirty years since his return with Rodrigues and their camera, The Last Time I Saw Macao only partially recounts the stories of Da Mata's past which are poetically evoked through archival photographs, melancholy voice-over fragments spoken by Da Mata, and visits to sites that bear only the faintest traces of his past life. The Last Time I Saw Macao instead turns to an unexpected mode of recherche du temps perdu focused upon the titular city as herself a kind of endless, enigmatic raconteur. Exploring Macao as an actual and invented city, defined by a history equal parts fact and fantasy, Rodrigues and Da Mata playfully unspool seemingly incongruous narrative threads—a noir detective story, a wry essay film and a subdued city symphony—as different wandering paths weaving across the city. In this process Rodrigues and Da Mata carefully turn to film genres not as postmodern citation, but as lenses through which to reimagine Macao and its history, openly pointing to cinema itself as crucial to the exoticization and, ultimately, colonization of the Far East as a cultural imaginary.

Extending the melding of history, myth and unstable memory in The Last Time I Saw Macao is the recent cycle of short works—or "Asian films" as the directors have named them—which return to Macao and/or the quasi-fictional Sinophile characters invented by Rodrigues and Da Mata. Mahjong directly extends Macao's new-noir storyline, offering a further adventure of Da Mata's intrepid detective, now hot on the trail of an enigmatic warehouse fire tied menacingly to the Chinese underground. Red Dawn, in contrast, embraces The Last Time I Saw Macao’s strand of poetic documentary, offering an alternately vivid and oneiric portrait of a Macao fish market in which the vivid death throes of writhing eels and rays somehow find uncanny musical rhythm with fantastical CGI mermaids and the ghost of the late Jane Russell, the famed "Lady from Macao” that is Josef von Sternberg's Macao. The earliest work of the cycle is China, China, a visually stunning feminist parable and explosive cautionary tale that was Da Mata's first work as co-director and the first to fully reveal the Pop sensibility—the gliding yet politically trenchant image logic—that gives a potent charge and signature to his work as director. The newest of the Asian films, Iec Long, is also the most haunting and lyrical, a mesmerizing portrait of a ruined Macao fireworks factory which reanimates the ghosts and voices of the colonial era and the industry's vanquished glory.

In a rich counterpoint to the Asian films are the trio of Rodrigues/Da Mata shorts that focus upon Portugal, using the body—and especially the eroticized male body—as an emblem of the Portuguese body politic and the lingering yet ever-shifting myths that shape the imagination of the nation's illustrious history. While The King’s Body playfully enlists—and gently interrogates—a group of sword-yielding young Galician muscle men to understand the image of Portugal’s mythological first king, Dom Afonso Henriques, Morning of St. Anthony’s Day choreographs a zombie version of the popular Saint's day, reenacting the inebriated morning after as a quiet, blissful apocalypse. Closing the group is Da Mata's impressive solo directorial debut, As the Flames Rose which uses the 1989 conflagration that destroyed the heart of Lisbon's historic Chiado district as a dramatic backdrop for a reinvention of Cocteau's La voix humaine featuring a strapping Rodrigues now as actor. – Haden Guest


$12 Special Event Tickets - Free Admission with Harvard ID
João Pedro Rodrigues and João Rui Guerra da Mata in person

Friday April 3 at 7pm

The Last Time I Saw Macao (A Última Vez Que Vi Macau)

Directed by João Pedro Rodrigues and João Guerra da Mata. With Cindy Scrash, João Rui Guerra da Mata, João Pedro Rodrigues
Portugal/France 2012, DCP, color, 85 min. Portuguese and Cantonese with English subtitles

 

Preceded by

Allegoria della Prudenza

Directed by João Pedro Rodrigues
Portugal 2013, DCP, color, 1.5 min. Japanese and Portuguese titles with English subtitles

 

Iec Long

Directed by João Pedro Rodrigues and João Rui Guerra da Mata. With Uncle Kan, Nicolino, Casper, Daniel
Portugal 2014, digital video, color, 31 min. Cantonese with English subtitles

 

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$12 Special Event Tickets - Free Admission with Harvard ID
João Pedro Rodrigues and João Rui Guerra da Mata in person

Saturday April 4 at 7pm

Morning of Saint Anthony’s Day (Manhã de Santo António)

Directed by João Pedro Rodrigues.
With Alexander David, Mariana Sampaio,
Miguel Nunes
Portugal/France 2012, DCP, color, 25 min.
Portuguese titles with English subtitles

 

The King’s Body
(O Corpo de Afonso)

Directed by João Pedro Rodrigues
Portugal 2013, DCP, color, 32 min. Galician and Portuguese with English subtitles

 

As the Flames Rose
(O Que Arde Cura)

Directed by João Rui Guerra da Mata. With João Pedro Rodrigues
Portugal 2013, DCP, color, 27 min. Portuguese with English subtitles

 

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Free Admission with Harvard ID
Monday April 6 at 7pm

China, China

Directed by João Pedro Rodrigues and João Rui Guerra da Mata. With Chen Jie, Chen Jia Liang, Luís Rafael Chen
Portugal 2007, 35mm, color, 19 min. Mandarin and Portuguese with English subtitles

 

Mahjong

Directed by João Pedro Rodrigues and João Rui Guerra da Mata. With Anne Pham, fernando Vhou, João Rui Guerra da Mata, João Pedro Rodrigues
Portugal 2013, DCP, color, 35 min. Portuguese with English subtitles

 

Red Dawn (Alvorada Vermelha)

Directed by João Pedro Rodrigues and João Rui Guerra da Mata
Portugal 2011, DCP, color, 27 min. Portuguese titles with English subtitles

 

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