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The Heart’s Root

After his 1998 comeback with "River of Gold," set around the city of Porto, veteran Portuguese helmer Paulo Rocha offers a Baroque portrait of Lisbon in "The Heart's Root," a largely undigested mix of fascism, sex, pornography, saints, street festivals and dirty politics. Simplistic juxtapositions as well as the colorful costumed characters and unstructured lensing, give pic a strong feeling of '60s and '70s cinema that is unlikely to find many ticket-buyers beyond revivalists.

Cast:
With: Luis Miguel Cintra, Joana Barcia, Melvil Poupaud, Isabel Ruth.

After his 1998 comeback with “River of Gold,” set around the city of Porto, veteran Portuguese helmer Paulo Rocha offers a Baroque portrait of Lisbon in “The Heart’s Root,” a largely undigested mix of fascism, sex, pornography, saints, street festivals and dirty politics. Simplistic juxtapositions as well as the colorful costumed characters and unstructured lensing, give pic a strong feeling of ’60s and ’70s cinema that is unlikely to find many ticket-buyers beyond revivalists.

The magical city, protected by St. Anthony, patron saint of lovers, is threatened by self-serving politicians. At the instigation of demagogic mayoral candidate Cato (Luis Miguel Cintra), it becomes a battleground between police (symbols of the bad and repressive) and drag queens (the good and free). Story revolves around Cato’s unrequited love for Silvia (Joana Barcia), friend of the transvestites who dance in the streets dressed as the “brides of St. Anthony” and a protege of a brothel madam (Isabel Ruth). It’s a stretch to accept obviously female thesp Barcia as a male transvestite, but this is a film that requires a lot of suspended disbelief.

The Heart's Root

Portugal - France

Production: A Suma Filmes (Lisbon)/Les Films de l'Atalante (Paris) production. Produced by Paulo Rocha, Gerard Vaugeois. Directed by Paulo Rocha. Screenplay, Rocha, Jeanne Waltz, Regina Guimaraes, Raquel Freire.

Crew: Camera (color), Elso Roque; editor, Edgar Feldman; music, Jose Mario Branco; production designer, Eduardo Filipe Junior. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (competing), Aug. 7, 2000. Original title: A raiz do coracao. Running time: 120 MIN.

With: With: Luis Miguel Cintra, Joana Barcia, Melvil Poupaud, Isabel Ruth.

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