“He’s a hundred and three years old and he’s leaving the hospital tomorrow. — Is it a bird? — Is it a plane? — No — It’s Manoel de Oliveira!”
BY AUSTIN BURBRIDGE. LOS ANGELES (CINEMA MINIMA) — The world’s oldest working filmmaker, Manoel de Oliveira, will be discharged from the Centre Hospitalier Gaia/Espinho in Porto, Portugal, on Friday afternoon, July 20, 2012, according to a spokesman for the hospital. He will return home, where — on doctor’s orders — he will rest, and take physical therapy to recuperate from the immobility of hospitalization.
★ Update 2012 July 20 Friday 17:30 UTC: Filmmaker Manoel de Oliveira, 103, has left the hospital, “anxious to get back to work.”
“Too much to do”
On the previous Friday, July 13, he had been admitted to the clinic’s Cardiology Intensive Care Unit for treatment of “congestive heart failure in the context of respiratory infection.” The movie maker remarked that he planned to leave the clinic, because he had “too much to do.”
Monday, after his condition had improved, he was moved to the Cardiology Intermediate Care Unit. The cardiologist Vasco da Gama Ribeiro, a friend, reported that the director was already sitting up, and eating unassisted; and that he asked when he could leave the clinic in order to “return to filming.”
The 103-year-old Portuguese director had been preparing his sixtieth feature, A IGREJA DO DIABO | THE CHURCH OF THE DEVIL.
Reactions on Twitter
Lusophone Twitter users — tickled by the spectacle of this indefatigable artist — have been circulating jokes:
- @caoazul: “A nurse spotted a thick book on his bedside table. ‘Is that your Bible?’ she asked. ‘No — that’s my vaccination record.’”
- @jyooruje: “Nelson Mandela is 94 years old today. Manoel de Oliveira remembers him when he was in diapers.”
- @JoseDePina: “Manoel de Oliveira called Nelson Mandela: ‘Congratulations, kid!’”
- @Old_Mans_Beard: “Which came first — the egg? or Manoel de Oliveira?”
- @ViggySimmons: “He’s 103 years old and he’s leaving the hospital tomorrow. — Is it a bird? — Is it a plane? No — It’s Manoel de Oliveira!”
A late-blooming career
Since his hundredth birthday in 2008, Manoel de Oliveira has completed seven films. His latest feature, GEBO ET L’OMBRE | GEBO AND THE SHADOW, completed in 2011, stars Michael Lonsdale, Jeanne Moreau, Claudia Cardinale, Leonor Silveira, Ricardo Trêpa, and Luís Miguel Cintra.
In the twenty-first century, de Oliveira has presented European cinema with a veritable parure of brilliant-cut gems: In 2006, Michel Piccoli and Bulle Ogier starred in BELLE TOUJOURS, de Oliveira’s meditative sequel to Luis Buñuel’s BELLE DE JOUR. In 2003, Catherine Deneuve, Irene Papas, Stefania Sandrelli, Leonor Silveira, and John Malkovitch starred in UM FILME FALADO | A TALKING PICURE. His 2001 film, VOU PARA CASA | I’M GOING HOME, which stars Michel Piccoli, Catherine Deneuve, and John Malkovitch, received wide distribution and good notices in the United States.
He began working in films in the 1920s. Although he directed his first film, a documentary, in 1931, his career didn’t take off until the 1970s (the end of Portugal’s 44-year Estado Novo dictatorship in 1974 may have contributed to this development). The majority of his fifty-nine films have been made since his seventy-fifth birthday. His work has been celebrated at film festivals around the world, including Cannes and Venice.
[Sources for this story — The Jornal de Noticías (Porto) and Diário de Noticías (Funchal) — were translated and edited by Austin Burbridge.]
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Manoel de Oliveira talks about God and art in Wim Wender’s 1994 movie, LISBON STORY