October 17, 2010
Acto da Primavera, 1963
In Le Quattro volte, Michelangelo Frammartino uses the staging of the Passion Play by the local villagers to bridge the ancient and the modern. This dialectic also provides the connective tissue in the Views from the Avant-Garde program, Station to Station, capturing the ancient tale as it unfolds in the streets of New York City (Jeanne Liotta's Crosswalk) and the Portuguese countryside (Fern Silva's Servants of Mercy), and culminating in the restored print screening of Manoel de Oliveira's sublime early work, Acto da Primavera. Filmed in the ancient village of Curalha in Northern Portugal (the film was released a year before Pier Paolo Pasolini's The Gospel According to St. Matthew) where the local residents have been staging this rite of spring since the 16th century, Acto da Primavera straddles the bounds between documentary and fiction, action and performance. Bookending the film with episodes that reinforce the contemporaneity of events against which the play is staged (a reading of a newspaper early in the film that comes full circle with the concluding images of modern warfare), de Oliveira explores the notion of "in between-ness" - from the quaint village that seems anachronistic in its competing landscape of medieval architecture and electrical power lines, to the idea of film as a literal and figurative medium and conjurer of images, to the hybridization of reality when it consciously plays out before a camera.