Joao Nicolau’s debut feature, “The Sword and the Rose,” is part Manoel de Oliveira’s “A Talking Picture,” part Wes Anderson’s “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou,” but without the intellectual heft of the former or the zany yet controlled playfulness of the latter. Tale of a man who boards a pirate vessel to help its crew look for a mysterious substance called plutex never holds water and runs an interminable 142 minutes. Beyond the experimental circuit, this will remain beached.
Promising opening sees Manuel (Manuel Mesquita), a musician of some sort, erupt into a singing duet with a tax collector whom he quickly shakes off. But once he’s part of the motley pirate crew on the high seas, pic becomes increasingly mannered and nonsensical, with the crew members, who have the capacity to become invisible, speaking in several languages just because they can. Bickering leads to mutiny as the sailors run out of lo-fi gadgets to play with, leading to a bizarre finale involving the ship’s former captain, the titular “Rose.” A stop-motion animated insert feels less Anderson-esque than simply random; other tech credits are intentionally threadbare.