This Saturday at midnight, Facets Multimedia will present The Cannibals, a rarely screened 1988 feature by Portugal’s greatest filmmaker, Manoel de Oliveira. Local filmmaker and professor Michael G. Smith, who will introduce the screening, describes the movie as “a freakish filmed opera in which every line of savage satire is sung.” He continues:
Adapted from a novel by Alvaro Crvalhal, the plot concerns Marguerite (Oliveira’s favorite leading lady Leonor Silveira), a high-society woman who marries a wealthy Viscount (Oliveira’s favorite leading man Luis Miguel Cintra) over the objections of her jealous ex-lover, Don Juan (Diogo Doria). On their wedding night, the Viscount reveals to Marguerite his darkest secret, which leads to a devilish, uproariously funny climax that must be seen to be believed.
It sounds like Cannibals abounds with the odd humor that runs through much of Oliveira’s work: consider the unexpected cat-hurling gag in Abraham’s Valley, the morbid punchline that concludes the seemingly gentle A Talking Picture, or Oliveira’s supremely eccentric decision to adapt Camilo Castelo Branco’s novella Doomed Love nearly word-for-word. By showing this movie as part of their “Night School” series (typically an outlet for cult items), the folks at Facets seem to be drawing attention to how much of a kook this erudite director can be. That’s not such a bad thing, considering his movies play almost exclusively to serious art house crowds in this country when they play here at all.