“I don’t want actors, I want people.”

09/01/2010 4:30 AM |

Our Beloved Month of August
Directed by Miguel Gomes

“I don’t want actors, I want people,” director Miguel Gomes tells an impatient producer in an early scene from his masterpiece Our Beloved Month of August, which itself lies somewhere uncomfortably between documentary and fiction. Frustrated by Gomes’ decision to jettison the project’s massive script and simply start shooting around the Portuguese countryside, the burly producer challenges his recalcitrant charge: “Find them.” And so Gomes does, as the film’s lengthy first half serves not only as a casting call among the non-professional locals, but a portrait of a region, focusing both on individual lives, and the local music, ritual and legends that dot the north-central Portuguese landscape.

Intercut with these glimpses of local life are (fictionalized?) scenes of Gomes and his crew struggling to overcome budgetary restrictions and inertia, playing quoits to kill the time between forays into the culture and character of the region. A work exploring the complex interaction of life and cinema, August gives way in the second act to the locally cast fictional film. While this film-within-a-film seems to follow at least partially the premise of the original script—an unsavory love triangle between a father, daughter and cousin who all play in a familial rock band—it derives an unforeseen richness from our understanding of the real-life genesis of the shoot and the ways in which subtle details drawn from local custom creep into and fundamentally shape the emergent work of art—a piece of work which, for all its high level of execution, represents only a fraction of Gomes’ stunning achievement.

Opens September 3