Sunday, 23 December 2012


A project originally set to be undertaken by the great director Raoul Ruiz, his death saw it fall into the hands of his widow Valeria Sarmiento, who does virtually nothing to enliven Carlos Saboga's ungainly script. A tale of the exodus of Portuguese civilians and both English and Portuguese troops to Lisbon to avoid Napoleon's encroaching army, Lines of Wellington gives good warning very early that it's going to be as tiresome an affair for the viewer as for the depicted characters, as initial scenes are flatly, clumsily directed, and dreadfully acted; this is an equally applicable assessment of roughly the whole ensuing film. The sensation throughout is one of a troupe of amateur actors of massively varying talents, shoved in front of a camera and instructed to act like they know what to do. Saboga's lines may be serviceable in Portuguese, perhaps even in French - I am a speaker of neither of those languages, but I do speak English, and his English dialogue is blunt and ugly. This ugliness is exacerbated by the surreal-sounding, questionable English accents of Portuguese actors Victoria Guerra and Marcello Urgeghe, whose heinous performances are two among many. Sarmiento could have resuscitated some of this drowned dreck produced by such shabby work, yet her grand vision for such a grand project is seemingly little more than to ensure that we can both see and hear the actors at all times. She lacks inspiration at every turn. Even the aesthetic qualities of this film, so ripe with potential, are underwhelming - DP Andre Szankowski is immensely skilled, as is evident in the occasional composition, but far too few. Cameo appearances abound, from an international cast, paying tribute to the late Ruiz, apparently, as their roles are mostly minimal, yet their contributions mostly considerable - Marisa Peredes and Elsa Zylberstein are particularly good, John Malkovich is particularly odd. Carloto Cotta, in one of many leading roles, is particularly hunky.