Lisbon & Portuguese film culture

Praça de Restauradores & Hotel Eden

Just back from the holidays: two weeks in Lisbon & surroundings. In addition to the classics (the rattling old trams, the bars & restaurants at the Bairro Alto, the Gulbelkian Museum, the old Alfama quarter, Belém, the palaces at Sintra, and one day to Coimbra) we also did some less obvious exploring, such as regarding film culture.

Eden4 Eden3 Eden1

We were staying at the Eden Hotel, a former movie palace from 1931. The façade has partly remained intact, but where the big poster walls were, two enormous gaps enable the guests to see through and enjoy the view on the city. At the flea market Feira da Ladra, we found an old programme of the theatre, indicating a vast programme with two intermissions. On the other side of the street, the Avenida da Liberdade, is the Condes, once a large cinema, now the Hard Rock Café. Before this building was opened in 1951,  a long running stage theatre had already been standing here which turned into a cinema in 1916. At the same flea market we found a booklet with the rich theatre and film history of the Condes until the opening of 1951. 

CondesCinema S. Jorge, LisbonCinemateca Portuguesa

A bit up the Avenida, there still is the cinema San Jorge, a huge cinema, which shows art movies now and then. A bit further, in the side street Salgueiro, the nice Cinemateca Portuguesa is located, where the average age of the matinee visitor is over 60. We saw an old Raoul Wash movie starring Robert Mitchum: Pursued, a kind of psychological western, with suggestions of incest and with a strong performance by Mitchum (Teresa Wright was quite awful). 

Once, the Avenida must have been the heart of the cinema and theatre district. Old stage and vaudeville theatres such as Tivoli, Coliseu (originally built as a winter circus) and Politeama (has also been a cinema) on & just behind the Avenida are witnesses of this foregone past. Nowadays, the floor is to the multiplexes as in the department store El Corte Ingles, where we walked out of Sasha Baron-Cohen’s Brüno (boring, boring) and had a nice time at the newest Harry Potter (getting darker & darker, but also increasingly involving puppy love issues). 

historias de cacadeiracancao

At the Medea King, an art house in a neighourhood fit for a sequel to Antonioni’s Eclisse, we saw an almost amateurish American independent film by Jeff Nichols, Shotgun Stories, which in spite of its shortcomings intrigued for its southern athmosphere, its characterisation and its escalation of useless violence. We also bought dvd’s of two classic Portuguese movies, Cançao de Lisboa, the first Portuguese sound film (1933), and Fado (1947), starring famous fado singer Amalia Rodrigues.

But the best film we saw in Lisbon was the city itself. In spite of its restaurations and renewal (thanks to Unesco, the 1998 Expo etc.), it  still breathes history as soon as you get away from the too touristy streets & squares. We also encountered this in a very vivid way, when in a restaurant in Bairro Alto, we met Simone de Oliveira, once (and in Portugal still is) a famous Portuguese singer who participated in the Eurovision song festival of 1969.  Her strong performance and her powerful voice can still be seen & heard on YouTube. Costumes & sets are also quite unforgettable period pieces.

~ by Ivo Blom on July 26, 2009.

2 Responses to “Lisbon & Portuguese film culture”

  1. I am looking to buy old Portuguese movies such as CAMOES, Capas Negras, A Cancao de Lisboa, etc! Would you know where to buy it? BTW i Love you page! Thank You.

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