Found Memories is a beautifully calibrated fable
Starring Sonia Guedes and Lisa Fávero. In Portuguese with English subtitles. Unrated. Opens Friday, July 20, at the Vancity Theatre
You can almost taste the passage of time in Found Memories, a first feature for young director Júlia Murat, who here puts her documentary background to unforgettable use.
Initially, this beautifully calibrated fable sticks to the minute gestures and comforting rituals that make up life in a fictitious village somewhere in rural Brazil. All the young people have gone, leaving only a priest and a few mostly hard-drinking parishioners who daily attend an otherwise abandoned-looking church.
The two most enterprising figures are Antonio (Luiz Serra), who runs the ancient general store, and Madalena (Sonia Guedes), who takes bread to Antonio and the churchgoers before going home to knead dough and write letters to her long-dead husband. When the director, who wrote the script with two others, has her (pro) actors repeat these daily chores, she and brilliant Argentine cinematographer Lucio Bonelli are always plunked in slightly different places, emphasizing the small variations that keep the locals’ lives enjoyable (if pretty boring, overall).
And then something happens. Cute tomboy Rita (Lisa Fávero), travelling from an unnamed city for unexplained reasons, shows up on Madalena’s doorstep, asking for a place to stay. She observes the white-haired woman’s routine carefully and soon starts taking photographs, both with a modern digital camera and with homemade pinhole devices.
Madalena’s strange tagalong, who listens to both ancient sambas and recent rock on her iPod, gradually gains the village’s confidence. And the filmmakers reward our trust with a steady flow of gorgeous images, whether lit by lanterns or the afternoon sun. The youngster’s black-and-white pictures truly resemble fading memories, supported by a sinuous and spare musical score. In the end, you are left wondering if she has been sent to help the old-timers squeeze more from this life or to usher them into the next one. Maybe that’s the same thing.
Watch the trailer for Found Memories.