Al Berto (2017)

Al Berto
Director: Vicente Alves do Ó
Writer: Vicente Alves do Ó
Cast: Ricardo Teixeira, José Pimentão, Raquel Rocha Vieira, José Leite, Joana Almeida, João Villas-Boas, Gabriela Barros, Ana Vilela da Costa, Duarte Grilo
Part of: Transition International Queer Minority Film Festival
Seen on: 5.2.2022

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia

Al Berto (Ricardo Teixeira) left Portugal some time ago, but after the Carnation Revolution, he dares to return to Sines, where he takes up residence in his family’s now empty estate and utterly commits to the Bohemian lifestyle, surrounded by artists, partying a lot and falling in love with João Maria (José Pimentão). But with or without the revolution, Portugal may not be quite ready for Al Berto’s way of doing things and resentment starts growing.

Al Berto is an interesting biopic that captures the spirit of the time, at least as I imagine it. It does get distracted a little too much by the sex and romance things, though.

The film poster showing a large close-up of Al Berto (Ricardo Teixeira). Below that we see him partying with João Maria (José Pimentão), at the beach with friends and João Maria holding Sara (Raquel Rocha Vieira) naked.

Al Berto comes to life the most when it shows the parties that happens at Al Berto’s villa that are lavish and queer and pretty much the best of what the hippies had to offer. With a sense for costumes and styles, you feel transported to the mid-70s.

But it is at its strongest when it touches on the political issues that suffuse the film and its background. When Sara’s (Raquel Rocha Vieira) mother warns her that Al Berto and João Maria have privilege enough to be protected from the consequences of openly flaunting conventions, while Sara – a fishmonger’s daughter – has not. When João Maria’s father confront’s Al Berto about his effect on João Maria and his future. When we see protesters marching, when we realize that it’s not just homomisia and narrow-mindedness that has people riled up against Al Berto, but a very real class struggle is there, too.

João Maria (José Pimentão) cuddling with Al Berto (Ricardo Teixeira), surrounded by books.

Unfortunately, those things (and a few more) are almost all “blink and you miss it” background to the great love story. And I will freely admit that Teixeira and Pimentão have excellent chemistry and I way really hoping for a happy end for them. But overall, I would have liked it better if the focus had been reversed.

Nevertheless, it’s a good watch about a poet I knew nothing about, set in a time and place I knew very little about. And it is definitely a good introduction to both.

Al Berto (Ricardo Teixeira) talking with Clara (Ana Vilela da Costa) at the beach.

Summarizing: good enough.

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