The Last Time I Saw Macao Screen 21 articles

The Last Time I Saw Macao

2012

The Last Time I Saw Macao Poster
  • Laudable idea that doesn't really work, mostly because the pseudo-narrative elements are so deliberately stilted that they succeed only in calling nonstop attention to their artificiality.

  • The fictional narrative never really gels. It's intriguing in theory, but in execution, it falls flat and just feels superfluous. The intertextual allusions, from von Sternberg to Chris Marker, register as smugly clever, signifying as little more than coy winks to the film-smart.

  • With its noirish voiceovers (courtesy of both João Pedro and João Rui), conspiracy plots, and focus on rituals, the film is also laced with a subtext of cinephilia. The Last Time I Saw Macao also refers to von Sternberg’s film, and its lead, Jane Russell, a kind of totem for the Joãos: the first scene of the film sees Candy performing a tantalizing show to Russell’s Macao number, “You Kill Me,” standing in front of a cage containing live tigers.

  • To its great credit, The Last Time I Saw Macao is the most rigorous and forward-thinking on [colonialism] of any other film this year. Although the Joãos never specify who or what the threatening cabal might be, the film strongly implies that it is the Colonial Unconscious, the repressed returning with a vengeance.

  • While the fatalistic turn The Last Time I Saw Macao takes in its final minutes seems simultaneously, disappointingly over-determined and abrupt, the directors' aplomb in pulling off a Llinás-esque haunted semi-fiction nevertheless exerts a pleasing spell over the viewer.

  • There are three ways to look at “The Last Time I Saw Macao” — as a minimalist, lazily post-modern meta-thriller, as an eccentric travelogue (Macao sweetened with unacknowledged images of Shanghai and Lisbon), and a disconnected succession of beautiful images. In its laconic exoticism and use of a disembodied narration to fictionalize documentary, “The Last Time I Saw Macao” has intimations of Chris Marker (“Sans Soleil” in particular), but it’s more casually louche and quite a bit campier.

  • Equal parts city symphony, essay, film noir and home movie, The Last Time I Saw Macao by João Pedro Rodrigues and João Rui Guerra da Mata is fascinating conceptually but a bit of a mess.

  • It’s a lot to pack into 85 minutes, and by the cheekily doom-laden end, there’s a slight sense that Guerra da Mata and Rodrigues’s reach has exceeded their grasp. Still, the effort is commendable and the complicated emotions of the piece (for a place and a people) come through loud and clear. To paraphrase the great Ms. [Jane] Russell, the movie has the power to make you laugh and the power to break your heart in half.

  • While the new Macao never quite lives up to the intensity of its first moments, it still offers a compelling and thoroughly enjoyable visit to a strange land many of us will never see.

  • Its raft of references to [Von Sternberg's] Macao... do little to energize the proceedings, regardless of their relationship to the protagonist’s trip down memory lane. Still, as a ruminative travelogue-cum-dissertation, Rodrigues and Guerra Da Mata’s film is often haunting, and its portentous and mournful atmospherics ultimately help compensate for the nagging impression that it’s a work almost too personal for an outside viewer to fully penetrate.

  • Fact and fiction orbit each other and sometimes collide in “The Last Time I Saw Macao,” a sly, amusing if underconceptulized and needlessly elliptical inquiry into truth, memory and appearances from the Portuguese filmmakers João Pedro Rodrigues and João Rui Guerra da Mata.

  • ...The detached Sans Soleil style approach works as both a summation of the film’s themes... and a neat way to avoid the difficulty of presenting complicated action realistically... The visual motif of animals, from balloon tigers to dog statues, gets denser as the film progresses, and things seem to be pushing even farther back in time, past ideas of control and conquest to a state of pure natural supremacy, like the mist-wreathed fugue that caps off Werner Herzog’s Aguirre.

  • Like Marker's work in a similar mold, images of places and environments are enriched by what's intoned over them, and the gulf between what's said and what's heard (the connections made, the ignorance lost) speaks directly to a power of the cinema so rarely brought to the screen.

  • Macao emerges like an alien planet, drenched in fog. Statues gaze impassively out at us, kindling our nostalgia for what might be the last time. No one’s in sight; the inflatable tigers are all overturned. It climaxes in a dazzling moment of apocalypse public and private, followed by silence. Some signs of life emerge. The statues lie in ruins, and with them all our signposts to the past. Well, save for one: Jane Russell’s voice, singing “You Kill Me” one last time.

  • A very different but no less indelible Markeresque mood, closer to a highly charged poetry of absence built around an elusive thriller plot, hovers over João Pedro Rodrigues and João Rui Guerra di Mata’s haunted and voluptuously photographed The Last Time I Saw Macao.

  • [Macao's approach to noir is] not a matter of merely updating the genre’s codes, or of approaching it from a neoclassical perspective. Here, what triggers the film’s atmosphere, what determines the tone it adopts, what breathes life into the genre, is what these two directors see in the city and then project onto their images. This is the defining gesture of The Last Time I Saw Macao, and the notion which is crucial to understanding how it works.

  • The noir/thriller narrative takes place in a city that at times feels like it could be the back alleys, shops, and restaurants from a film by Chinese filmmaker Zhang Ke Jia or from the filmmakers' fellow countryman Pedro Costa; at other moments it's the almost-surreal neon future of BLADE RUNER. Macao is as much a puzzle as the intrigue that Cindy has become enmeshed in, both of which we, and our hero, struggle to sort out.

  • Narrated in Portuguese by Guerra da Mata... the thriller intrigue is a brilliant exercise in grafting narrative onto a diverse collection of documentary images. It’s not doing the film a disservice to say that there’s also the material here for a superb photo exhibition; shooting the film themselves (apart from the stylized opening sequence, photographed by Rui Poças), the directors create a mesmerizingly evocative selection of city images, mostly in static shots.

  • In many ways, The Last Time I Saw Macao is a subtle love story: one that conveys not only the closeness between its makers but also their deep affection for an undersung work from Hollywood’s golden age and the actress they’ve chosen to inhabit both the past and the present, the make-believe and the real. This enchanting film is also a paean to anamnesis itself, an act that proves that the only reliable quality of memory is its profound unreliability.

  • Unclassifiable and unpredictable... The film is tantalizingly drawn to the disconnect between what we see and what we hear, a dissociative spell it seems to link to the post-colonialist mindset (Mata, after all, plays a Portuguese filmmaker returning as if by some magnetic pull to his old colony). Moreover, street animals – specifically cats – are omnipresent throughout as bizarre escorts, suggesting Rodrigues and Mata are consciously working in the lineage of Chris Marker.

  • Rodrigues and Guerra da Mata thus manage to fashion a labyrinth that suggests both Marker’s vortices of time and memory (the film is full of temporal markers: watches, clocks, and countdowns) and Welles’ sinister, centerless mazes. If one finds the labyrinth over-contrived, it’s best to remember Jane Russell’s own counsel in Macao as she snarls at Robert Mitchum, “It’s all a matter of taste.”

More Links