“Saint George” (Portugal)
Directed by Marco Martins
I don’t have a long (or any) history with Portugese cinema, so I can’t adequately tell if the style of “Saint George” (“Sao Jorge”) is typical fare. But I AM fairly conversant in Belgian cinema, and if you’ve seen “The Ardennes” or “Bullhead”, you will have a very good idea, stylistically, of what you are getting yourself in to.
Narratively, this look at how Portugese austerity measures enacted in 2011 and beyond affected those in debt…and those that made a living collecting that debt…”George” places everything, or, rather, the everyday under a viscerally real microscope. There are almost no long shots that I can remember. Instead, Martins keeps the lens well within ten feet of these struggling people. Forcing us to come in such close contact with the sweat, dirt, expressions and the noise of this world, makes for a very claustrophobic film…but only in a cinematic sense. And that visceral presence really is the saving grace of an otherwise very slow moving film.
I want to say Nuno Lopes, as our protagonist, is terrific, because it feels like he is…but so much of the film revolves around HIS experience of the mundane, and his point of view, I can’t really pinpoint whether his successful characterization on screen is due to his work or Martin’s. Regardless of who is responsible, his ‘Jorge’ is, without a doubt, a truly sympathetic monster…and that is no easy feat to pull off.
This is a very small movie that takes place at the height of a very big social issue. And leaving the theater, I did not feel it was a film that succeeded or would leave a lasting impression. BUT, as I write this, I find that it has indeed stayed with me…and my compassion for its characters has grown. Therefore, if it ever gets any kind of distribution, and you prefer films which choose to showcase hyper-reality rather than artful gloss, you could do MUCH worse than”Saint George”.
Written on 11/11/2016