SFIFF: Alone again, naturally, in João Pedro Rodrigues' To Die Like a Man
(A Marnie poster hints which wing of the Hitchcock library Rodrigues currently resides in, exploring patriarchal and matriarchal ties.) Fassbinder and the larger specter of "'60s and '70s European art film is hilariously invoked through the character of Maria Bakker (the superb Gonçalo Ferreira De Almeida), a sweet beacon of death prone to epigrams and fits of vamping. In the film's key moment of ominous reverie, she and Tonia and their sidekicks sit down in the woods and are softly serenaded by Baby Dee's song "Cavalry."
Rodrigues has a way with sound and image, and the queeniness of the characters here allows him and longtime partner and art director João Rui Guerra da Marta to indulge their own flouncier yet symbolically rich impulses. Tonia wraps a car gift for Rosario in silver foil, and her cell phone holder is a porcelain leather pump with a puff ball at the heel. Her backstage mirror is decorated with photo mementos of Brad Renfro and Cristiano Ronaldo, and one of her chief stage outfits is like Dorothy's red slipper turned into an entire dress. In a single shot, a bath towel, bath mat, and dog offer variations of furry whiteness. Twice, the aesthetically heightened naturalism of Rui Poças's cinematography gives way entirely to fluorescent pastel hues.
Tonia's story is about uncovering what is buried before one's body is laid to rest. Her journey crosses through some of the Lisbon landmarks of Rodrigues' previous films the fatal intersection and cemetery walls of Odete, for example while finding rare blooms on the edges of urbanity. A farewell tour as long as Cher's, To Die Like a Man never tests one's patience. Forget-me-not is one of the ever-referential Rodrigues' secret mottoes as a director. Even if life and drag and the drag of life persist beyond the end of Tonia, he's created a film to remember.
TO DIE LIKE A MAN
May 1, 9 p.m., Clay
May 3, 12:15 p.m., Kabuki
May 4, 6:15 p.m., Kabuki