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Originally published Thursday, April 14, 2011 at 3:02 PM

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Movie review

'The Strange Case of Angelica' — quietly beautiful film

"The Strange Case of Angelica," the latest film from 102-year-old Portuguese writer/director Manoel de Oliveira, is a quiet tale of love that includes some beautifully filmed fantasy scenes and a dreamy mood "like smoke from a cigarette."

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 3 stars

'The Strange Case of Angelica,' with Ricardo Trêpa, Pilar López de Ayala, Leonor Silveira, Luís Miguel Cintra, Ana Maria Magalhães. Written and directed by Manoel de Oliveira. 95 minutes. In Portuguese with English subtitles. Not rated; for mature audiences. Northwest Film Forum, through Thursday.

"The Strange Case of Angelica," the latest film from 102-year-old Portuguese writer/director Manoel de Oliveira, is a quiet tale, told through a rarely moving camera and a playful, bewitching smile. That smile, seen in the lens of a young photographer as he takes a picture of a beautiful corpse, haunts the rest of the movie, just as it stays with the movie's hero.

Isaac (Ricardo Trêpa) is a lonely, quiet man who lives in a room in a boardinghouse. One rainy night, he's summoned to photograph a young newlywed (Pilar López de Ayala) who has just died; she's dressed in white and arranged on a chaise. Her name, appropriately, is Angelica, and she and Isaac seem to have a moment of connection.

Whether Angelica really smiled at Isaac isn't the film's concern; rather, it's the aftermath. Though in the real world he becomes interested in filming vineyard workers, who exemplify for him an old way of life, he begins to dream about Angelica. She visits his sparsely furnished room in her white gown, wafting through the window; taking her in his arms, he flies away with her through the gray nighttime skies. These fantasy scenes are beautifully filmed, and Isaac's drab room begins to seem like a portal to a different world. Though the dreams disappear, "like smoke from a cigarette" in one character's lovely phrase, they hang over the film like the delicate Chopin on its soundtrack; a strange case, ultimately, of love.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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