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PRINT February 1997

LETTER

Lisbon and Porto

If the films of Portugal’s most famous cineast, Manoel de Oliveira, are any indication, the Portuguese national character is distinguished by a melancholic romanticism and a propensity for sorrowful passions, mourning, and contemplation. In movies like Amor de perdição (Doomed love, 1978), O Convento (The convent, 1995), or more recently Party, 1996, de Oliveira has mined this territory to compelling, sometimes humorous effect. More recent cinematic efforts, such as Joaquim Sapinho’s first feature-length film Corte de cabelo (Haircut, 1995), which recounts the misadventures of a young couple on their wedding day, have focused instead on everyday urban life in ways that reflect the cultural miscegenation that gives semi-peripheral countries like Portugal their distinctive flavor. Thus, while some maintain that Portugal has an essential national identity marked by fatefulness and saudade (

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