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.