Rite of Spring

Oliveira returned to feature filmmaking after a twenty-year enforced absence with this visionary re-creation of a small town's passion play, which he discovered while location scouting for his short Bread. Drawn to the ritualistic, nationalistic, and hallucinatory qualities of the play, Oliveira inspired the townsfolk to re-create the entire affair for his cameras, in effect reproducing their reproduction for his own reproduction. Foregrounding his own crew's presence while still capturing the village's mad, incantatory spectacle, Oliveira strikes a very modern balance between sociological observation and cinematic manipulation, topping the film off with a brilliant final montage that merges the death of Christ, the lust for violence, and the Vietnam War. While the film's thematic links may be biblical, its aesthetic choice to present ethnographic documentary, staged theatrics, and narrative fiction as one unblinking whole fascinatingly predates such current masters as Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Abbas Kiarostami, and Pedro Costa.

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