Like a Manoel de Oliveira pic with beaches, maverick Brazilian helmer Julio Bressane’s “Miramar” is a semi-abstract, fascinatingly modern story about the coming of age of a young film director. Pic is a series of highly evocative scenes from the hero’s life, set to music or poetry, sometimes running backward or intercut with other filmed material. This is a love-it-or-leave-it kind of movie, and most of those remaining in their seats when the lights come back on will belong to a small coterie of film buffs willing to enjoy Bressane’s sensual visuals and untrammeled imagination. It is a limited arthouse item, but a very good one.
Played by the teenage Joao Rebello as a curious, budding intellectual ready to learn from experience, Joao Miramar appears in various Rio de Janeiro settings, often with the sea as a backdrop. An attractive literature teacher (Bio Nunes) helps him discover the poetry of Camoes. An insatiable producer (Fernanda Torres) teaches him to be true to his own ideas. A glamorous actress (Giulia Gam) with whom he wants to make a film leads him into a passionate love affair. In a striking flashback, Miramar’s young father and mother make love and take poison, committing double suicide.
Intercut with these scenes are a plethora of other images, memories of childhood, shots from Eisenstein’s “Que Vive Mexico,” poetry readings, and long lists of Brazilian names and books that have apparently had an influence on Miramar (whom it is not hard to imagine as the alter ego for Bressane, born in 1946). Sometimes the soundtrack from a ’50s American B movie is used instead of music as a neutral backdrop to dialogue.
Citing top Portuguese helmer de Oliveira several times, the film is likewise laden with chatty characters who flit in and out of the story, discussing grand philosophical ideas in sensuous, down-to-earth Portuguese. Bressane, who has worked continuously since 1966 in short, medium-length and feature formats, and who has made several docus about the cinema, is sure-footed on this peculiar stylistic plane, which he developed in such films as his 1995 “The Mandarin.”
The dragged-out scenes, often shot from one fixed camera position, tend to lose interest long before they are over. Luckily, the visuals by cinematographer Jose Tadeu Ribeiro and art director Rosa Dias are works of art in themselves, lovingly composed in the bright reds, blues and acid greens of a lush seascape. Humorous images fill the pic with surprises, helping foreign audiences glide over a great deal of meaningless local references and just enjoy the ride.