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"André Valente":
Child, Things are Going to Get Easier
By Andy Rector

André Valente.

If the eight year old André Valente (Leonardo Viveiros) filmed himself like director Jonathan Caouette in Tarnation (also shown at this year's Viennale and reviewed here) the result would not be near as manic. André had a loving early childhood. Sure, it wasn't without its disturbances. André Valente, the first feature film of Portugese director Catherina Ruivo (Portugal-France, 2004), is the kind of drama where the disturbances come later. Early on, however, his parents were close and André was the closest to them. After all it is well known that the most crucial period in a persons life is from age 0-6.

This closeness is elliptically revealed with subtle fetal positions and a sort of mattress mise en scène: In the close quarters of their lower middle class apartment in Portugal, sleeping, lying down and a wondrous scene of André slowly waking up that makes me realize that I've never seen a child wake up in a movie before.

If I say that this representation of the tripartite family at its best is like some of Phillipe Garrel's, then I'd have to say about André Valente that the movie doesn't go all the way. A more "realist" naturalism starts to creep in at the same time as the plot, against the pure love decoupage of before. The father leaves, the mother (the dark haired and serious Rita Durao) gets a boyfriend. André's best friend leaves town. He meets the Russian next door neighbor, who works on skates as a gopher at the grocery, but who would really like to make lines in the ice. We see this one poetic image of an ice-skaters feet before André e and the neighbor meet, a sudden grace that André's life lacks.

At times the film has a rare respect for reality, like when we watch André and his friend walk to school in one long tracking shot. It's a film about a child and a mother, the neighbor is only there for uplifting purposes, but the film brought on the "need" for uplift to itself through a sitcom-ish scenario. By the end André, the boy, could step into any number of commercial films.

Andy Rector
© FIPRESCI, Viennale, 2004



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