in 18th Mar del Plata International Film Festival

by Carlos Augusto Brandão

Domingos de Oliveira’s Separacoes is, above all, a love story. But also is a high spirits comedy where the writer/director speaks of breakaways betting on the contrary : the discovery of love and friendship. The story follows a fiftyish writer, Cabral – interpreted by Oliveira himself -, who proposes to his 15-years long companion Glorinha (Priscilla Rozembaum) to give each other some time to think their relationship over. Soon he witnesses she falling in love with Diogo (Fabio Junqueira), a wealthy architect.

While describing the main trio, Oliveira also constructs a pannel of the other characters around which the story also develops: Laura( Susana Saldanha),Cabral’s old friend and confident; Ricardo (Ricardo Kosovski), Glorinha’s ex-boyfriend ; Maribel (Nandda Rocha),Ricardo’s girlfriend; and Julia (Maria Ribeiro), daughter of Cabral and also living a crisis on her marriage.

Separacoes basically follows the same line of the earlier films made by Oliveira, based mainly on witty dialogues, in a style that some critics compared to Woody Allen’s lighter comedies. The comparison can hardly be held, since Oliveira stays more on the lyrical side of things and any connection with Allen’s work is only referential: the same way the American helmer normally elects New York and some of its characters to compose the frame of his stories,Domingos has Rio and its beach upper middle class tribe as his main inspirational fountain. Without any sociological preoccupation, his camera promenades through the typical streets and places of Rio’s beautiful Ipanema and Leblon, where old and new friends hang around, drinking, talking and, most of the time,gaining new friends and mates. Oliveira, who was born close to those places, knows very well what he is talking about: he loves Rio, its free-no-worry-merry-life philosophy and knows how to put them on the screen.

As in his other films, an autobiographical side is also present: the main character is a bohemian playwriter and director,just as Oliveira, one of the best known Brazilian stage directors. As he freely admits,several of the elements found both in his films and plays come straight from his own life, friends and neighbourhoods.

Separacoes, itself a stage success,was adapted to the screen with basically the same structure used in the play : in order to describe the end of a love affair,the author divides the whole break away process into four stages,which he describes as the stages of Denial, Negociation, Rebellion and Acceptance. These, supposedly,are the same stages persons suffering of terminal deseases go through when they discover they’re seriously ill: in the beginning, they don’t admit they are sick ; then comes the promises of taking better care of their own health; after,in arrives the revolt against God, fate and the whole world ; finally, at the very end,the acceptance of death slowly settles in and peace seems to take over the mind of the doomed person(s).

Domingos de Oliveira is a filmmaker that keeps faithful to his own style, although many times criticized for his choices. He was under heavy fire, for instance, when he made Todas as Mulheres do Mundo (All the Women of the World), a film seen as alienated and without any ideology at all, at a time when just about every Brazilian filmmaker was engaged into the political and social themes of the Cinema Novo, a solid intelectual trench during the fight against the military dictatorship of the 60s and 70s.

The filmography of Oliveira – Separacoes included-, nevertheless,is perfectly inserted into the spaces he chose to discuss life,love,friendship and the small daily events, all of which with an ironic view of himself and the universe that surrounds him. Maybe, that is the reason why the comparison with Allen becomes inevitable to some, despite the fact that Domingos has declared that he feels closer to Truffaut, the filmmaker of his preference.

Carlos Augusto Brandao