In a cinema that only resembles itself, Maureen Fazendeiro and Miguel Gomes invent a free form, particularly in the contemporary.
From what and with whom do we make cinema? This question, both candid and postmodern, Miguel Gomes has been asking himself since his first films, which have the particularity of being both the outline of a project and its total outcome. To achieve this incredible balance, he uses several procedures that can be found in Tuoa’s Journal, his fifth feature film, co-directed with his partner, filmmaker Maureen Fazendeiro.
The most obvious of these processes is the crisis of the film as a linear and homogeneous object. Gomes’ works are riddled with breaks, chapters and films in the film. In Tuoa’s Journal, this crisis is twofold. It first takes the form of an inverted chronology, divided into twenty-two days recounting the peaceful daily life of a woman and two men who spend their summer holidays together on a vast property.
The cardinal value of Miguel Gomes’ cinema: porosity
Swimming, fruit harvest, games of seduction and construction of a butterfly aviary punctuate their days. After the first third of the film, this beginning of fiction collapses and we switch to a making-of scene which tells us that the filming of the film is disrupted by the potential Covid-19 contamination of one of the actors. From there, the film advances (or retreats, depending on whether one takes the point of view of the story or its narration) by following the course of the shooting of this confined film until its first day.
Another of these processes is the crisis of the author’s status. We remember the brilliant opening scene of Thousand and one Night, where Miguel Gomes deserted his shoot while running, pursued by his team.
In Tuoa’s Journal, this obviously goes through the co-signing of the film with his partner, but also through the formulation of his doubts and a scene of temporary resignation from his role as co-director: he must accompany Maureen to a medical appointment for her childbirth and leave to the actors the freedom to shoot what they want.
The cardinal value of Miguel Gomes’ cinema is porosity; porosity of the film to its social context, in this case a global epidemic, porosity of fiction to its own making and finally porosity of the author to the collective that surrounds him, which ranges from actors to dogs that frolic on the filming, passing by the sound recordist.
An update of Brechtian distancing
Despite the complexity of his project, Tuoa’s Journal unfolds with disconcerting fluidity and ease. If the film never suffers from the possible didacticism of its structure, it is because it bathes in the enjoyment of the feeling of summer. Its rays, its sensuality and its carelessness radiate the film and make it an object that is both sensory and playful, from which one can only escape with regret.
In the light of the pandemic, the term distancing, physical or social, has entered everyday language. It is no coincidence that Tuoa’s Journal is the first auteur film to integrate the epidemic context in which we are living and the influence that this imperative of distancing has on a shoot.
Before being associated with Covid-19, the term distancing is, in the performing arts and to roughly summarize it, this Brechtian principle which rejects the fictional pact, in order to make the public aware of its ability to transform its environment. In five films, Miguel Gomes updated Brecht’s distancing by inventing a new cinematographic transposition, endowed with an aesthetic and political ambition that has no equal in contemporary cinema.
Tuoa’s Journal by Maureen Fazendeiro and Miguel Gomes, with Carloto Cotta, Crista Alfaiate, João Nunes Monteiro (Port., 2021, 1 h 38). In theaters July 14