A Talking Picture (Um Filme Falado) (2004) - Rotten Tomatoes

A Talking Picture (Um Filme Falado)2004

A Talking Picture (Um Filme Falado) (2004)



Critic Consensus: A Talking Picture occasionally struggles to engagingly convey its ambitious themes, but viewers attuned to its distinctive frequencies will find it well worth a watch.

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Movie Info

This delicate and haunting fable from elder statesman of Portuguese filmmaking Manoel de Oliveira has been intepreted in many quarters as the director's response to the violence and brutality of September 11th; it also functions a poignant reflection on the birth and death of civilization. The film begins aboard a cruise ship that departs from Lisbon and is heading to Bombay, India, with many stops along the way. On board are Rosa Maria (Leonor Silveira) and daughter Maria Joana (Filipa de Almedia). As the tourists travel from county to country, Rosa Maria talks to her daughter about the myths and culture of various civilizations; stops include the Sphinx, the Acropolis, Istanbul and many other locales. Tourists board in several locations - many played by celebrities including Irene Papas, Catherine Deneuve, and Stefania Sandrelli - and they engage in lengthy, cultured, super-intellectual discussions with one another aboard the boat, mostly about the birth of civilization and the violence that must accompany it. In these discussions, each individual speaks to the others in his or her native language, sans any difficulty of understanding from the others. Then, a darker truth about the nature of the ship itself emerges, and sets the film up for an unexpectedly horrifying ending. A Talking Picture was shown in competition at the 2003 Venice Film Festival.


John Malkovich
as Comandante John Walesa
Leonor Silveira
as Rosa Maria
Filipa de Almeida
as Maria Joana
Luís Miguel Cintra
as Actor Portugujs
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Critic Reviews for A Talking Picture (Um Filme Falado)

All Critics (25) | Top Critics (9)

Oliveira establishes a sense of timelessness only to catch his audience up short with a film that ultimately could scarcely be a more timely comment on the world in which we live.

March 18, 2005 | Rating: 4.5/5 | Full Review…

Extremely slow and won't be for those with no appetite for lengthy, self-serious monologues, but it also has a sharp, personal edge to it.

March 11, 2005 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

A potent and troubling meditation on the state of Western society.

January 21, 2005 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

A thoughtful, provocative effort that makes up for its narrative failings with its astute philosophical musings.

December 27, 2004

The freeze-frame finale is a stunner.

December 10, 2004 | Rating: 3/4

The Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira again shows himself to be a master of the medium with this sharply cut gem of a film about a mother and daughter sailing the Mediterranean.

December 10, 2004 | Rating: 4/5

Audience Reviews for A Talking Picture (Um Filme Falado)

A Talking Picture, directed by Portugues legend Manoel De Olivera, spends its first half as a badly filmed travel-log with commentary by Leonore da Silveira and an 8-year-old child, portraying her daughter. Where they go and what they have to say holds some interest, as da Silviera speaks in grand terms regarding civilization, mythology and legends, but the clarity of the film itself looked like it was shot by a 1950's era camera. I was crying out for a polarizing filter to get rid of some of the pervasive haze. Between the lines the film's message is about humanity, as da Silviera and daughter spend time talking to a fisherman in Marseilles, simply because he has a cute dog. The theme is then echoed when they reach Istanbul and take in the Hagia Sophia, pointing out how the Christian cathedral was conquered by the Muslims and turned into a Mosque. There are several very static shots, filmed as if you were behind the camera looking out at the scenery; often the camera lingers after Da Silviera has left the frame, so you can see other tourists walking in front of the camera. Interesting, but something I would have edited out of my home movies. From the previous paragraph it is obvious that there isn't much in the way of artful filming going on, although there is a nice shot where the camera films da Silviera exiting a taxi, filmed from the street, looking through the taxi window, which reflects the ancient architecture of the building behind. As da Silviera and daughter are traveling the Mediterranean via boat, there are some almost laughable shots of the old cruise ship bobbing on the waves - looking like something Ed Wood would have produced using a toy ship in a bathtub. Add to this the ridiculous filming of the ships' prow cutting through the water to signify time passing between destinations and you've got yourself a bad home movie. Other wasted opportunities include a showing of only a single mosaic at Pompeii (and no frescos), and while at the ampatheator in Athens, the guide points out a stone chair and says "this is a very important chair, see the inscription." Of course the camera shows the chair and inscription, which is in GREEK!! I don't read Greek and don't believe da Silviera does either - so I have no idea whose butt sat in that chair of honor. The 2nd half of the film takes place in the dining salon aboard ship, where da Silviera and daughter are seated near the captain's table - which allows the film to focus on the captain and his honored guests - 3 VIP women who all hail from different countries, yet understand enough varied languages to be able to keep up a fluent conversation (this also speaks of the commonality of humanity). John Malkovich, who is his usual droll, restrained self, plays the captain. He notices the young girl, so after the meal approaches da Silviera and invites her to the captain's table the following evening; an offer that she demonstrably refuses as if she believed Malkovich was hitting on her - truly odd. At the next evening's supper, Capt. Malkovich cajoles a famous Greek actress and singer to do a number for the guests. The song, sung in Greek and going on way too long, is about the missing leaves of the trees and how they were blown away by a harsh north wind. The film has a surprising twist at the end, and when the final frame freezes on Malkovich's face you understand the message of the centuries of civilization and humanity - striving forward and creating through strife, chaos and loss, as a reprise of the Greek song plays over the credits.

paul sandberg
paul sandberg

Super Reviewer

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