Most filmmakers who reach age 100 would be content to count their residuals checks and attend the occasional retrospective.
Portugal’s Manoel de Oliveira does have a Berlin tribute coming up, and he was hailed by Clint Eastwood at Cannes last year as one of Europe’s great directors, but he’s not ready for a final retrospective just yet. After all, he’s still working — on not one but two new films.
The helmer celebrated his centenary Dec. 11 by taking a longer break than usual on the set of his latest, “Eccentricities of a Blond-Haired Girl,” to enjoy a birthday lunch and slice of chocolate cake.
He’ll need the energy. In addition to the Berlin event, where he may screen “Eccentricities,” he wants to shoot another film, “The Strange Case of Angelica,” and have it ready for Cannes.
De Oliveira, who started making films during the silent era with the docu “Labor on the River Douro,” credits work for his longevity.
He worked only sporadically under the rule of Portuguese dictator Antonio Salazar, making a splash with winsome children’s drama “Aniki-Bobo” in 1942. But since the age of 71, he’s directed 35 films.
Spanning Western civilization from the Greeks to 9/11; often fixating on Portuguese history; and mixing fiction, documentary and theater, Oliveira’s films are high art indeed; 1985’s “The Satin Slipper” lasts nearly seven hours.
“Eccentricities of a Blond-Haired Girl” turns, like many de Oliveira films, on fated love, and it has a lengthy harp perf. “Angelica” deals with the persecution of the Jews, says de Oliveira, and works radical Islam into the theme.
Intriguingly, he also has an unseen movie, 1982’s “Visit, or Memories and Confessions,” about a house he once lived in. It’ll be released only posthumously — “for reasons of prudishness” — de Oliveira says.