• International Competition



Yohei Yamakado

A coastal landscape, waves breaking on the shore. A young woman in her studio, tubes of paint; she prepares a blue that becomes the blue of the sky. She rests her chin on her hand and closes her eyes. Then nothing, darkness. In this darkness, a voice, hers, begins to recite O Marinheiro, the sublime “static drama” by the young Fernando Pessoa. A single voice for three women indoors at night, talking about the power of dreams in apprehensive anticipation of daybreak. “Don’t get up. That would be movement. And each movement interrupts a dream”. Darkness and night continue and invite the still, mute spectator on an inner adventure, to the most disturbing experience of cinema as metaphysical art: with eyes wide open, to delight in the negation of the visible, of what is, to open up to all that was, could have been, could be. To invent, like the sailor on his desert island, a different childhood, a different country of birth. “The positive was given to us at birth; it is up to us to create the negative” – Godard was inspired by Kafka’s idea, and Yohei Yamakado realises its full power. In the second shot of his film, we see a lighthouse in the distance, and, in a plastic echo in the foreground, a bottle on the quayside, eradicating all sense of scale. This is an identical but inverted mirror of the opening shot of Ozu’s Floating Weeds (1959). This is surely because, like the films of the Japanese master, the true subject of O Marinheiro is the impermanence of all things. If everything is merely passing, what’s the point of reality? But no, because when day returns at the end of the film with views of the city of Porto, it’s dazzling. And the lesson of another of Ozu’s disciples, Jean-Claude Rousseau, comes to mind: “Everything is to be admired”.

Cyril Neyrat

The film offers an acousmatic reading over a black screen of the “static drama” O Marinheiro by Fernando Pessoa. You also used this artistic device in your previous film, Amor Omnia (FID 2020). What is its role in your artistic practice?

I’m trying to reach cinema. Shots. Motions and emotions. I try to make films as best I can each time, and this is the third time, with a lot of trial and error. Each film is unique. As the text of O Marinheiro says, “Dreams are our nourishment”. The machinery (camera and microphone) and the apparatus (screen, projector, armchair: the elements of a movie theatre) are present, luckily, I’d say, at my own risk. It’s very basic and very important. Yet in my case, I don’t start from preconceived ideas. I don’t have a predetermined method that I would apply in the same way to every film I make.

I don’t think I have a style. I’d be terrified of having one. The producer—who happens to be me—offered me this text, I accepted, and I’ve tried to make—like all serious filmmakers I try to refer to, often in vain—the most efficient, most economical, most amusing and most exciting filmmaking choice possible: do what one can, or better, if one can, do what one must. 

This time, with these three female voices (which become one), in certain financial and technical conditions, I proposed (and the producer accepted) to make, in the Hollywood terms of yesteryear, what is known as a little B-movie noir. It was little—which is always relative, of course—in the sense that it only cost 10 thousand euros, that we were a team of only five for the shoot, plus two for post-production, that it only lasts 75 minutes, including the festival logo. It’s in three parts. As for the composition, I thought a lot about L’Opinion publique (1923) which is in three parts: tragedy-comedy-tragedy, and L’Aurore (1927), even if these links are reversed in O Marinheiro. It’s noir—which is also relative, or perhaps not relative, if not absolute—because things are repeated at least twice. The Postman Always Rings Twice; the woman drops her ring twice. 

I saw it again a few weeks before shooting, along with a few other so-called films noirs, as there was a retrospective at the Cinémathèque française last year; Lana Turner—all white, then a little black—seemed sublime. Another film that particularly moved me was La Griffe du passé (1947). That beautiful black. Magnificent. All the faces seem just right, therefore remarkable. Then comes the heatwave. “Why not cry?”

In Pessoa’s play, three female characters converse with each other, but in the film, only one voice speaks. Can you explain this choice?

To cite José Augusto Seabra in the preface to O Marinheiro (José Corti, 1988), it is a three-part chorus, which can be multiplied indefinitely. I’ll avoid answering your question despite its importance, because it would be too much of a spoiler!

But I will say that the three women keeping vigil are only characters in appearance: names where all the words are buried. 

Maeterlinck, whose play Les Aveugles exerted a certain influence on the writing of O Marinheiro (Pelléas and Mélisande too, perhaps, see the décor, atmosphere, etc.), dreamed of “removing living beings entirely from the stage”. Of course, Mallarmé also reminds us: “A piece of paper is enough to evoke any play: aided by their multiple personalities, readers can perform the dramatic work in their minds, which is not the case with pirouettes.”

According to its author, the text of O Marinheiro, is a tragedy, of words, of language (confronted with non-language): a myth. The film O Marinheiro is not supposed to be an adaptation. It doesn’t aim to solidify the myth.

Reading the text is also a way of fully restoring its musical dimension. How did you go about engaging with this aspect?

The Portuguese voice is the star of the film. I worked on it with actress Rita Senra to achieve a flat reading, but not a neutral reading or an aesthetic distance. So we read, repeated, aloud or in a low voice, both to erase our intentions and to accustom the mouth to the words. I think the result resembles something quite raw, simple, concrete, a little weak too, perhaps, and I’d even go so far as to say, humdrum. At that time, I remembered what Fritz Lang used to say in the United States: “I want a journalist’s image”.

Recording is another matter. We tried not to erase a certain naivety inherent in Rita’s beautiful voice, which is naturally bright, blooming and enchanting to my ears. On a technical level, the entire studio session was done with a single supercardioid microphone (Schoeps MK41) and Avid Pro Tools with the aim of not suppressing the presence of the mouth. It was one of the main issues at the time of recording, and now also in post-production: “Not too much iZotope”, a very practical and profitable tool. All of this was because after all—personally I’m very attached to the idea—”the mouth and lips are permitted sensuality.”

During the reading, the image of a black and white door appears suddenly from the darkness. What does it represent for you? 

It’s in the text (“Why doesn’t someone knock?”). The shot in question is the one that came last, from another shoot actually (which incidentally took place in Marseille, a few years earlier). It’s a shot that wasn’t included in La Lyre à jamais illustra le taudis (2018), my first film.   

A door can represent many things. For me, it’s Lubitsch first and foremost. The image in question reminds me of Edward Everett Horton’s “Nothing”, or his hurried footsteps into the corridors in several films, here and there, as well as “The war… people kill each other… ” by the very touching Carole Lombard; and on the other hand, it’s also, as the great filmmaker Portuense (disproportionately great in relation to his country), our friend, writes in one of the notes he left us (entitled O que fica, I think): Prince André’s door. The door that Prince André, already seriously weakened, sees, or thinks he sees, in his bedroom, in one of the last chapters of War and Peace. It isn’t cheerful. There’s something frightening, terrifying even.

Other images could have arisen, or would have arisen, will arise, or could arise. Like the sailor’s dream. Like the dream of cinema, of the screen, that white, slightly silvery surface: perhaps, the remarkable people of La Rosière de Pessac, the gentleman and his dishes from L’Affaire Colinet, the lady and gentleman and their friends from Le Scénario total, those elegantly choreographed worldly bodies from Ritual in Transfigured Time, and finally from Une femme dans chaque port, probably the most beautiful marine film in the world, an unforgettable, nocturnal, solitary dive by Louise Brooks.

Interview by Marco Cipollini


  • International Competition

Technical sheet

Portugal, France / 2023 / 75’

Rights holder
Yohei Yamakado