Way too sprawling and loosely-episodic to work effectively, the Portuguese auteur nevertheless gives us a rather cerebral docu-fictive, music-infused meta-film centering on the vibrancy and eccentricity of a small town blessed with a strong festive spirit.
Dir. Miguel Gomes
2008 | Portugal | Docudrama/Music/Romance | 144 mins | 1.85:1 | Portuguese, French & English
Not rated – likely to be NC16 for some sexual content
Cast: Sonia Bandeira, Fabio Oliveira, Joaquim Carvalho
Plot: In the mountainous heart of Portugal, the month of August is abuzz with people and activity. As emigrants return home, set off fireworks and sing karaoke, we follow the development of a strange relationship between fifteen-year-old Tania, her cousin Helder and her father in whose band she sings.
Awards: Nom. for C.I.C.A.E. Award (Cannes)
Source: O Som e a Fúria
Subject Matter: Moderate – Life, Cultural Ethnography
Narrative Style: Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse
Miguel Gomes’ second feature after The Face You Deserve (2004), which I unfortunately didn’t like, Our Beloved Month of August is a much more compelling film in comparison. Having said that, the film is way too sprawling and loosely-episodic to work effectively, running at close to 150 minutes.
Though some might find the leisurely pacing a welcome touristy delight as Gomes brings us around a Portuguese small town, following what appears to be a family band that performs songs and dances during the night.
Much of the first half of August works like a documentary, as we literally see Gomes getting his crew set up at various locales in order to shoot a film (or is it this film?)—and in a few scenes, having rather restrained conversations with his producer who’s annoyed with his process, or lack thereof.
From casting problems to production delays, it’s a wonder whether the film would ever get made. (Perhaps what we are seeing in August is a rough cut, not yet edited to satisfaction, and hence its sprawling nature?)
“Do you still remember how it all began, love?”
In any case, Gomes’ work is a cerebral piece of docu-fictive, music-infused meta-film, posing questions about authenticity and realism. Is everything naturalistic or performative? As we get into the second half, that question grows into greater prominence as August slowly becomes more like a traditional film.
It’s hard to pin down where reality ends and fiction starts, but what is immediately translatable from the get-go is the vibrancy and eccentricity of the people who reside in this small town.
It’s August, a month of festivities and reunions—as locals return from far away to visit their family homes, or as tourists soak in the atmosphere vicariously, the film becomes an ethnographic record of a way of life.