Review: ‘Days in Sintra’

An alchemic tone poem about her long-dead husband, Brazilian Cinema Novo pioneer Glauber Rocha, Paula Gaitan's experimental "Days in Sintra" explores the outer limits of memory. Fitting memorial to a neglected maestro reps prime fest fare.

An alchemic tone poem about her long-dead husband, Brazilian Cinema Novo pioneer Glauber Rocha, Paula Gaitan’s experimental “Days in Sintra” explores the outer limits of memory. Returning to the titular Portuguese seaside city where she, Rocha and their young kids spent months in exile before Rocha’s premature death at 42, Gaitan commingles ghostly 8mm homemovies with sharply etched HD shots of the unchanged elements, while Rocha’s disembodied voice sporadically muses on cinema, death and politics in Portuguese, English and French. Fitting memorial to a neglected maestro reps prime fest fare.

Widow’s memorial walkabout features trancelike images of sunlit water, trees and stones, highlighted by startling use of still photographs. Snapshots of Rocha are hung on trees, set floating out to sea or poetically scattered over the rocks. But when Gaitan places these fetishized scraps of private memories into the meaty hands of workers, to be handled reverently (“he looks like a kind man”) or shuffled impatiently (as female fishmongers debate whether he’s a soap star), Gaitan enters the political arena as surely as did the creator of “Antonio Das Mortes,” albeit by an indirect, feminine path.

Days in Sintra

Brazil-Portugal

Production

An Urca Filmes, Aruac Producoes (Brazil)/Filmes Do Tejo (Portugal) production. Produced by Eryk Rocha, Leonardo Edde. Directed, written by Paula Gaitan.

Crew

Camera (color, 8mm/HD), Gaitan, Pedro Urano; editors, Gaitan, Daniel Paiva; music, Edson Secco. Original title: Diario de Sintra. Portuguese, Spanish, French, English dialogue. Reviewed at Tribeca Film Festival (Encounters), May 1, 2008. (Also in Buenos Aires Film Festival.) Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Maira Senise, Ava Rocha, Eryk Rocha.

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