Camilo Castelo Branco, the author of the novel from which Oliveira adapted Doomed Love, emerged as a character in the director’s next film—a sinister, absorbing portrait of a mutually destructive love affair. Oliveira’s source text for Francisca was a novel by Agustina Bessa-Luís, whose work he’d later adapt twice more. The book’s retelling of a troubled passage in Camilo’s life—his friend José Augusto (Diogo Dória) embarked on a perverse game of marital cat and mouse with Francisca (Teresa Menezes), the woman the novelist loved—led Oliveira to new levels of stylistic and formal imagination. (It helped that his wife, a distant relative of the historical Francisca, gave him access to a cache of the woman’s letters.) With its elaborate title cards, abundance of shots in which the action is oriented directly toward the camera, gloomy interiors, and show-stopping gala set-pieces, Francisca is an exacting, sumptuous, and utterly inimitable cinematic experience, and one of Oliveira’s crowning achievements.
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