Francisca

The final film in Oliveira's “Tetralogy of Frustrated Love” is also its darkest, a hot-blooded tale of degradation, cruelty, and thwarted desire that is, of course, filmed as coolly and clinically as possible. Based on a true story involving the author Camilo Castelo Branco (who wrote Doomed Love, and was a friend of Oliveira's wife's family), the plot concerns two young men who become smitten with the lovely Englishwoman Fanny Owen, though here desire and conquest soon turn into something far darker. “Instead of murdering the fiction, Oliveira attempts to purify it, stripping away layer after layer of stylistic incrustation, finally leaving the fiction clean and glistening, like a tiny precious stone,” writes Dave Kehr in the Chicago Reader. “And yet, for all of Oliveira's drive toward the elemental and unadorned, the film retains a curling sense of the baroque, which rests in the incessant, meticulously observed emotional fluctuations of the characters. It is as if Jean-Marie Straub had collaborated with Max Ophuls.”

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