Misbegotten

"Misbegotten," Joao Canijo's harsh update of the Electra myth, makes the "Oresteia" look positively feel-good by comparison.

With:
With: Anabela Moreira, Marcia Breia, Fernando Luis, Goncalo Waddington, Tiago Rodrigues.

“Misbegotten,” Joao Canijo’s harsh update of the Electra myth, makes the “Oresteia” look positively feel-good by comparison. Shorn-haired daughter of the house Lucia, addicted to bitterness and dreaming of vengeance, passionately grieves her father, envies her dead sister, hates her mother and sleeps with her brother. The milk of human kindness has long curdled in this lugubrious Portuguese backwater where only the village idiot knows compassion. Brutish family wallowing in booze, sex, pain and lies promises little revenue for the Portuguese film industry and less for the tourist trade.

At least Agamemnon sacrificed Iphigenia to save the Greek army; he didn’t rape her and force her to have an abortion to save his reputation — or so the modern-day Clytemnestra claims, to which Lucia (Anabela Moreira) replies that big sister asked for it. Canijo’s bleak vision, though evocatively rendered, feels almost gratuitously one-note and claustrophobic. The dark closed-off cafe that forms the family kingdom has become a love-nest for the middle-aged ruling couple united by lust and murder where everyone schemes, rationalizes and threatens, conspiring in corners and moving from room to room as if pursued by restless ghosts.

Misbegotten

Portugal

Production: A Clap Films production. (International sales: Madfilmes, Lisbon.) Produced by Paulo Branco. Directed by Joao Canijo. Screenplay, Canijo, Celine Pouillon, Mayanna von Ledebur.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Mario Castanheira; editor, Joao Braz; art director, Jose Pedro Penha Lopes. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Horizons), Sept. 5, 2007. Original title: Mal Nascida. Running time: 117 MIN.

With: With: Anabela Moreira, Marcia Breia, Fernando Luis, Goncalo Waddington, Tiago Rodrigues.

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