Gebo and the Shadow

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O Gebo e a sombra

“An autumnal work from an ageless wonder, the film is a lovely, intimate riff on familiar themes.” — Jordon Cronk, Slant

Year: 2012
Country: France, Portugal
Running time: 91 mins
Censor Rating: G

Based on a play by Raul Brandão

Producers: Martine de Clermont-Tonnerre, Luís Urbano

Photography: Renato Berta

Editor: Valérie Loiseleux

Production designer: Christian Marti

Costume designer: Adelaide Trêpa

In French with English subtitles


With: Michael Lonsdale (Gebo), Claudia Cardinale (Doroteia), Ricardo Trêpa (João), Leonor Silveira (Sofia), Luis Miguel Cintra (Chamiço), Jeanne Moreau (Candidinha)

Festivals: Venice, Toronto 2012; Rotterdam 2013

“The centenarian Manoel de Oliveira’s film – an adaptation of a play by Raul Brandão – is an exquisite yet anguished spectacle, a grand piece of cinematic chamber music for a cast of mighty soloists. The setting is a cramped, chilly room off a desolate courtyard, sometime in the late nineteenth century, where a poor, elderly couple, Gebo (Michael Lonsdale) and Doroteia (Claudia Cardinale), are haunted by the eight-year absence of their prodigal son, whose wife, Sofia (Leonor Silveira), they have taken in. He’s the shadow who darkens the family’s meagre and narrow existence, and then he makes his fiery-eyed, defiant return. The young man, João (Ricardo Trêpa), is a scruffy-bearded, jumpy, Dostoyevskian rebel who boasts of his life of crime and impenitently, even sadistically threatens to rend what’s left of the family’s threadbare bonds. The elder actors conjure stifled furies with their pensive stillness and chisel-sharp diction, and Oliveira – aided by the lambent evocation of gaslight by his cinematographer, Renato Berta – presents them in frames of dramatic precision that evoke the enduring agonies of a vanished century. A shot of João and a dish of peaches in front of mottled green-gray walls suggests the hard, rough world of Cézanne brought back to life. With Jeanne Moreau, as a prophetic neighbor, and Luís Miguel Cintra, as an aged, still-struggling artist.” — Richard Brody, New Yorker