Directed by Manoel de Oliveira • 1981 • Portugal
Starring Teresa Menezes, Diogo Dória, Mário Barroso
A portrait of an obsessive love affair, Manoel de Oliveira’s FRANCISCA is based on a novel by Agustina Bessa-Luís, whose work the legendary director would later adapt twice more. The book’s retelling of a troubled passage in the life of celebrated writer Camilo Castelo Branco (Mário Barroso)—in which his friend José Augusto (Diogo Dória) embarked on a perverse game of marital cat and mouse with Francisca (Teresa Menezes), the woman the novelist loved—led Oliveira to new heights of stylistic imagination. (It helped that Oliveira’s wife, a distant relative of the historical Francisca, gave him access to a cache of the woman’s letters.) With its elaborate title cards, strikingly staged action, evocatively gloomy interiors, and show-stopping gala set pieces, FRANCISCA is an exacting, sumptuous cinematic experience that ranks among Oliveira’s crowning achievements.