João Pedro Rodrigues

João Pedro Rodrigues, O ornitólogo (The Ornithologist), 2016, 2K video, color, sound, 118 minutes. Foreground: Fernando (Paul Hamy). Background: Huntresses (Juliane Elting, Flora Bulcão, Isabelle Puntel).

“THERE ARE CERTAIN THINGS we shouldn’t try to understand,” declares the eponymous bird watcher in João Pedro Rodrigues’s The Ornithologist—including, one surmises, the film he’s in. The most conventional of the Portuguese auteur’s protagonists, who have included a libidinous, latex-encased garbage collector seeking rough sex amid the rubbish (O fantasma [2000]) and an aged drag queen mortally poisoned by silicone breast implants (To Die like a Man [2009]), the solitary ornithologist nevertheless undergoes one wild ride after crashing his kayak on an annual trek to survey birds in a remote nature preserve. Sharing his birth name (Fernando) and Lusitanian birthplace with Saint Anthony of Padua, a figure he will come to resemble as his off-piste pilgrimage turns increasingly numinous, the scientist is transformed from an irreligious rationalist into a beatified wayfarer by his

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