manoel de oliveira is 93 years old, which makes him the oldest working filmmaker and, as far as I can tell, the oldest working filmmaker ever. His latest, I'm Going Home, premiered in the Competition at last year's Cannes Film Festival.In it, Michel Piccoli plays an actor of dogged integrity. He's spent his life in the theatre and in "serious" film work, driving his agent to distraction by refusing to take more financially rewarding television work.
As the film begins, he loses his wife and daughter in a car accident, leaving him guardian of his grandson. Then he's improbably cast as Buck Mulligan in a film of Joyce's Ulysses to be directed by John Malkovich -- improbably because Joyce's "stately plump Buck Mulligan" is 30-ish and Piccoli is 75.
I'm Going Home is in essence a meditation on mortality and loss. De Oliveira uses a spare approach, and his narrative impulses are extremely elliptical -- there's barely a story, and the camera never moves except for a couple of shots from a moving car. His style has evolved after 60 years of filmmaking to a piercing simplicity, here without the odd pretensions that cluttered 95's The Convent. Piccoli is extraordinary, but then, he generally is.
On the other hand, it's hard to name a filmmaker working within the conventions of European cinema whose approach to narrative is more infuriatingly oblique than de Oliveira's.
I'm Going Home rages against the dying of the light with Zen-like calm.
I'M GOING HOME (JE RENTRE A LA MAISON) directed by Manoel de Oliveira, written by de Oliveira and Jacques Parsi, produced by Paolo Branco, with Michel Piccoli, Catherine Deneuve and John Malkovich. 90 minutes. A Gemini Films production. Opens Friday (April 19). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 74. Rating: NNN