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Manoel de Oliveira, or Cinema, the Art of Enigma

On the occasion of his one hundredth birthday, Manoel de Oliveira (b. 1908) must be recognized not only as the oldest major director active today, but also one of the most imaginative and innovative filmmakers the cinema has ever known. During his almost eighty years behind the camera, Oliveira has been an incredible creative force, confounding historical precedent by becoming only more productive in his old age and taking bold and increasingly unexpected risks with each new project, such as the wonderful I'm Going Home (2001) and his latest film, Christopher Columbus, the Enigma (2007).

Throughout his remarkable career, Oliveira has devoted himself to a singular type of art cinema that, while often referencing the work of Buñuel and the silent masters, remains unlike any other. A guiding force has been Oliveira's steadfast rejection of the quest for "pure cinema" pursued by cinematic modernism to explore instead a mode of filmmaking that draws unique inspiration and energy from theater, literature and philosophy. In masterpieces such as Doomed Love (1978), My Case (1983), and Abraham's Valley (1993), Oliveira offers not merely adaptations but spellbinding dialogues with the films' source novels and plays that radically reinvent the role of language and performance in film, and challenge the typically privileged position of image over sound in narrative cinema. Oliveira's keen understanding of the spoken word in film is, of course, profoundly informed by his unique qualification as the only director working today who also worked in the silent era.

Although Oliveira is revered in Europe as a living treasure, in this country his films are rarely appreciated or screened. This retrospective offers a rare opportunity to experience one of the last great masters of the cinema and to travel in time through his marvelously long and endlessly fascinating career.