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Hovering Over the Water

João César Monteiro
À Flor do Mar
Portugal 1986 / 144’
Silvestre Recollections of the Yellow House

A unique work in light of the rest of Monteiro's ouevre, this melodrama is bathed in various shades of blue, the color of melancholy. Despite her promise to herself to never return to that "dead country," Laura (Laura Morante), an Italian woman, decides to spend her holidays in the homeland of her deceased husband at their summer home on the Portuguese coast. One day, she finds an injured man (Philip Spinelli) in a boat drifting in an empty cove. Using static shots and long takes, the story of their getting to know one another develops slowly, allowing "time to heal their wounds." Building its contemplative aura, drifting freely between changing moods in search of solace and harmony, Monteiro's film brings to mind the work of Roberto Rossellini, the light in Piero della Francesca's paintings, the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. But just at the moment when the family's existence begins to resemble a poem worthy of a Nobel Prize, the prose of far-off unrest intrudes. Contemplation is interrupted by irony in the form of a German thug played by Monteiro himself. The surprising change in tone in Hovering Over the Water ensures that it doesn'tdescend into nostalgia and transports the film beyond the obvious framework of the genre. This melodrama conceals more surprises, however, such as a young Teresa Villaverde (who would later become a director) in the role of Laura's teenage daughter.

João César Monteiro

Jõao César Monteiro (1939-2003), one of Europe's most original and at the same time least-known filmmakers, was a director, actor, critic, writer and poet. He studied at the London Film School, though his work can't be attributed to any particular film school. His individual, erudite, eccentric and sometimes controversial films benefit from poetry, philosophy, theater and painting. If you were to look for cinematic inspirations in his work, then Buster Keaton would undoubtedly be one of the key figures for Monteiro. Raised during the time of the Salazar dictatorship, Monteiro aimed his stories, laced with black humor, at the guardians of public morality: the church, the state, the family. He pursued in his first films the sources of national foundation myths before later creating on screen the figure of a profane saint, João de Deus, who owes his name to the patron saint of prostitutes, fishermen and the mentally ill. As Haden Guest wrote, de Deus embodies the contradictions in the Portuguese director's work: an austere dandyism, a religious perversity, a sense of comic tragedy, a type of slapstick fatalism.

Selected filmography

1969 Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen (dokument)

1975 Que Farei eu com Esta Espada? / What Shall I do with This Sword? (dokument)

1978 Veredas / Paths

1981 Silvestre

1986 Kwiat morza / À Flor do Mar / Hovering Over the Water

1989 Wspomnienia z Żółtego Domu / Recordações da Casa Amarela / Recollections of the Yellow House

1992 Ostatnie zanurzenie / O Último Mergulho / The Last Dive

1995 Komedia Deusa / A Comédia de Deus / God's Comedy

1997 Biodra Johna Wayne'a / Le Bassin du J.W. / The Hips of J.W.

1998 Śluby Deusa / As Bodas de Deus / God's Wedding

2000 Królewna Śnieżka / Branca de Neve / Snow White

2003 Odejścia i powroty / Vai e Vem / Come and Go

Cast & Crew

director João César Monteiro
screenplay Jõao César Monteiro
cinematography Acácio de Almeida
editing Marina Carvalho, Leonor Guterres, Manuela Viegas
cast Laura Morante, Philip J. Spinelli, Manuela de Freitas, Teresa Villaverde, Georges Claisse
producer Jõao César Monteiro
production Instituto Português de Cinema (IPC)
sales NOS Audiovisuais
language Portuguese, English, French, Italian, German
colouration colour