A short edited excerpt from the booklet essay by Kieron Corless.
During 2006, I get to see Miguel Gomes' shorts - six of them in total. One or two are miniscule, nonchalantly throwaway - the rest more substantial, both in length and ideas. Music is prominent, guiding and coaxing the narrative; there's absurd humour, unexpected subject-matter, anarchic impulses let loose. An abiding theme is a refusal to grow up, and linked to that an irrepressible commitment to play, a sense of cinema as a marvellous game, in which you can – in fact should - easily invent your own rules, and just as quickly break or discard them. Canticle of All Creatures, the one included in this DVD package, is a case in point. It's easily my favourite, an exquisitely fluid shape-shifter, ludic and serious at the same time, which I'm starting to recognise as a Gomes trait. It opens with a modern-day troubadour strolling around Assisi, singing Song of Brother Sun, or Song of the Creatures, a hymn to nature composed by the town's most famous son, St Francis, in 1224. A sudden transition to a gaudily coloured, almost kitsch tableau of St Francis himself in the Umbrian woods in 1212, in the grip of a crisis of forgetting which provokes the animals' jealousy and competition for his favour.
It's a film that manages to cram more cinematically into its 23 minutes than many directors manage in a lifetime - in its capacity to roam imaginatively, to subtly modify its complex tonal register, to draw the viewer in emotionally with such rapidity. It's completely thrilling.
Cannes, May 2008. Much as I love Miguel's debut feature The Face You Deserve (2004) and his shorts, Our Beloved Month of August is a gigantic leap forward, an absolute miracle of a film that somehow manages to fuse all its seemingly diverse elements into a spellbinding, unclassifiable whole. The opening hour or more documents the outdoor summer festivities in Arganil, a poor, sparsely populated, mountainous rural region in the centre of the country known as 'the heart of Portugal', prone to ravaging summer fires; a leisurely mosaic of religious processions, dancing, feasts, hockey, wild boar hunting, fireworks, and above all music – mainly popular songs belted out enthusiastically by amateur bands (the film's title is lifted from one of them). Throughout this lengthy passage we're gently attuned to the decelerated rhythms of this world and introduced to several characters – locals, returned emigrants, tourist interlopers – and one in particular, a larger-than-life daredevil legend called Paulo.
Then, almost imperceptibly, well into the 147 minutes' running time, a different film emerges and takes over; a romantic melodrama with incestuous overtones centred on the burgeoning first love between teenage cousins, whom we'd already met in the first part, jealously monitored by the girl's father (played by the person who was, or was maybe masquerading as, Gomes' producer in the earlier section). All three play in the same band, the dramatic situation channelled through the lyrics of love and longing they repeatedly croon during their gigs.
This bipartite structure (similar to the one in The Face You Deserve), with its blurring of actors and characters, fiction and documentary, will inevitably prompt speculation on how the film was made, on what came first. The story goes something like this...
Kieron Corless’ complete essay, from which this excerpt is taken, appears in the booklet which accompanies the DVD release.
A short excerpt from the booklet
Sight & Sound by Michael Brooke
DVD Outsider by L K Weston
E-Film Blog by Michael Ewins
DVD Beaver by Gary W. Tooze
Digital Fix by Anthony Nield
Mondo Digital by Nathaniel Thompson
(i) The Rules of the Game: A Conversation with Miguel Gomes at CinemaScope
(ii) Miguel Gomes on the film works of Pedro Costa
(ii) MUBI: What do you know about Portuguese Cinema?
(iii) Portuguese Cinema (from IFG 2010) by Martin Dale
(iv) O Som e a Fúria website
Length / Our Beloved Month of August: 144 minutes
Length / Special Features:
Sound: Original stereo (restored)
Original aspect ratio: 1.66:1 / 16.9 anamorphic
Subtitles: English (On/Off)
Release Date:26th Sept 2011 Second Run DVD 062