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The Hips of J.W.

João César Monteiro
Le bassin de J.W.
Portugal, France 1997 / 144’
God’s Comedy Snow White

Only Monteiro could make a comedy about a writer's nervous breakdown with Strindberg's Inferno as the point of departure. In this erudite, brilliant and most demanding of the Portuguese director's films, we see him in a dual role as the head of a theater troupe engaged in a battle of good vs. evil with an actor playing Lucifer (Hugues Quester), while he plays God. The philosophical and spiritual struggles continue off-stage, as least until Henrique (Pierre Clementi, known from films by Pasolini, Visconti and Bertolucci) enters the fray, a retired sea dog heading to the North Pole. He wants to see how his childhood idol, John Wayne, wanders alone through the icy void with his famous, broken stride (this image, according to legend, comes from a dream by French critic Sergei Daney). Performed more so than acted, exploring the affinities between cinema and theater, The Hips of J.W. is a series of scenes linked by their sarcastic humor,unhurried flowing dialogues and moments of pure surrealism, which reference not only Strindberg but also Pasolini, Breton and Portuguese poet de Pascoaes.

Małgorzata Sadowska


Coimbra Caminhos do Cinema Português 1998 - Best Film

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 (based on texts by August Strindberg, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Teixeira de Pascoaes, André Breton)
cinematography Mário Barroso
editing Carla Bogalheiro
cast Hugues Quester, Pierre Clémenti, Joana Azevedo, Jõao César Monteiro, Jean Watan
producer José Mazeda, Jean-Pierre Saire, Frédéric Sichler, Daniel Toscan du Plantier
production Fábrica de Imagens, Euripide Productions, Instituto Portugês da Arte, Cinematográfica e Audiovisual
sales NOS Audiovisuais
language Portuguese, French
colouration colour