The colonialism of Portugal, the most iconoclastic queer irony. Probably a minor film by the director, yet never so entertaining and entertaining.
“How can you defend what you don’t want?” black instructor Afonso says to the uncrowned white king Alfredo as their rescue drill progressively turns into seduction, kissing and choreography. The same desire for which the naked and posed bodies of the firefighters of Wisp replicate and transform the paintings of Caravaggio, Rubens and Francis Bacon into a sort of queer acrobatic bacchanal, up to the Pietà as the last and definitive tableau vivant before goodbye. As if to say, in one of the many brilliant and paroxysmal sequences staged by João Pedro Rodrigues in his audacious “musical fantasy”, that even art cannot exist if it is not moved by the flesh. Six years after having provocatively (homo)sexified, and therefore in his own way sanctified again in a real journey of Faith and redemption, Saint Anthony of Padua (or from Lisbon, where he was born and of which he is the patron) in the erotic journey and playfully heretic of Or ornithologist, the Portuguese director now imagines a dreamlike and farcical gay musical tale, knowingly incongruous, overloaded and irreverent. A film in which lust rises to a very precise revolution, and the sperm, especially if copiously gushed on the face of a prince from a descendant of his slaves, can become the definitive social upheaval with which to humiliate and ridicule colonialism, avenge it in sexual domination and mocking laughter.
It’s all about desire Wisp. That of the king dethroned by the Republic who still dreams of taking back the crown, that of Prince Alfredo his son who instead wants to enlist in the fire brigade according to “republican meritocracy”, that of the entire gay barracks that between physical exercises, tests of strength, underpants ripped on the ass and cocks in the wind (or huge on the wall in slide, just like the trunks of those trees loved and sung about as a child) he never stops showing off and coveting his own bodies. A desire that Rodrigues transforms into a dreamlike cinematic journey that begins and ends in 2069 of the prince’s death, passing through 2011 of his childhood and today of his life as an aspiring firefighter in which to discover sex between doors/curtains and toy cars , home stages and bright meadows of love by the river, absurd solidarity hypocrisies from afar of the royal family when he blows out the candles during a fire on TV and definitive political upheavals that will finally crystallize in the unveiling of the highest offices of the democratic state. Until the contemporaneity that breaks through but in a flashback, with the news of Alfredo’s entire family exterminated by Covid.
A profoundly free, rhapsodic, colourful, shameless, iconoclastic, amusing and amused filmic “wisp”, with which Rodrigues makes a further departure as much from the rigor of the Portuguese DeOliverian tradition as from the obscurity of his early works, from The ghost to A Última Vez Que Vi Macau (made at the time in co-direction with partner João Rui Guerra da Mata, here “only” co-writer and art director) to look somewhere between Miloš Forman of To the fire, firefighters and Bruce LaBruce’s most exacerbated (self) irony. The result, presented at the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes75, is hilarious entertainment which after the lofty ambitions and refined symbolisms of João Pedro Rodrigues’ previous cinema intentionally presents itself as a game that aims more at touching than at dissecting, more at satire than at a real philosophical speculation on the identity or on the colonial faults of Portugal, more to queer provocation than to a real reflection on time or the fake of the theatrical setting and of the gigantic “hairpieces”, as Tinto Brass has always called them, with which to exchange onanisms on a lawn between an “anthropist” and an excited “slaver”. A probably minor work, yet no less successful in its irresistible irreverent comedy or less capable of daring in political forms and thrusts, with which to parody society over the years and throw its hypocrisies, the monarchical colonialism of yesterday, into an explosive racket and today’s republican racism, and then again the classism, conformism and homophobia that have never changed. All that remains is to put them in the viewfinder and challenge them, through a kaleidoscope of genres and intuitions that jumps between black comedy, political parody, dance and the most sudden musical explosions. But above all among the cocks. Not just an object of homoerotic desire, but real weapons of rebellion, to be slammed again and again in the face of respectable people.
Original title: Fogo-Fátuo
Director: Joao Pedro Rodrigues
Cast: Mauro Costa, André Cabral, Joel Branco, Oceano Cruz, Margarida Vila-Nova, Miguel Loureiro, Dinis Vila-Nova, Luisa Castelo Branco, Vasco Redondo, Teresa Madruga, Ana Bustorff, João Mota
Distribution: Risi Film. In collaboration with Arch Film
Origin: Portugal, France, 2022
The evaluation of the film of Sentieri Selvaggi