A Talking Picture

by Keri Carlson

ADir. Manoel de Oliveira

A Talking Picture” boasts a veteran director and a cast of some of the most renowned actors in the world, including Catherine Deneuve, Irene Papas and John Malkovich. Yet regrettably, the film never lives up to the potential implicit in its credits.

The film follows Rosa Maria (Leonor Silveira) and her daughter, Maria Joana (Filipa de Almedia), as they travel from Lisbon, Portugal, by ship to meet up with Rosa Maria’s husband in India.

Along the way, Rosa Maria, a history professor, visits the sites of ancient civilizations on the Mediterranean Sea – from the ashes of Pompeii, to the amphitheaters in Athens, Greece, to the pyramids in Egypt. Each stop is another history lesson for her young daughter. As a result, much of the film is like watching a seventh-grade history textbook. The facts Rosa Maria rattles off are dry and seemingly unimportant at the time she says them. Director Manoel de Oliveira decides to center his attention on Rosa Maria and her historical monologue rather than use the scenery to its full advantage.

The ship’s captain (Malkovich) invites Rosa Maria to join his table at dinner with three other women who are all financially successful but have failed at love. The philosophical conversations at the table are interesting, especially because each person speaks a different language; but the film takes too long to get to the plot.

Oliveira has good intentions of connecting once powerful ancient civilizations with current world politics. However, by the time he makes his point, the audience is already lost.