A life dedicated to the cinema
He lived 106 years and most of these years were dedicated to filmmaking, with dozens of films that earned him international recognition. His long filmmaking career began in the 1930s and finished only with his demise in 2015.
Manoel de Oliveira was born in Porto in December 1908, to a family related to the industry. His father was the first electric bulb manufacturer in Portugal and was an unconditional fan of the seventh art, taking his son to see the films of Charles Chaplin and Max Linder.
The young Manoel was soon not only interested in cinema but also in sports, having practiced motor racing, athletics and gymnastics, standing out in all these modalities. At the age of 20 he enrolled in the School of Actors of Cinema, founded by Rino Lupo and made his debut as an extra in “Fátima Milagrosa” (1928).
The career of actor and heart- throb marked his acme in the film “The Song of Lisbon” (1933), but it would be as a director that he would stand out and hold a peerless position in the history of the Portuguese cinema.
While studying, he bought a camera and, with the help of an amateur photographer, he began shooting his first film. “Douro, faina fluvial (fluvial work)” premiered in 1931, but this portrait (silent movie) of the life of the inhabitants of Ribeira do Porto was not well received in Portugal. At the time many criticized the duration of the plots and the slowness in which the action unfolded. This would become the brand image of Oliveira, often misunderstood in Portugal, but highly praised by his international counterparts.
The fishing communities would be protagonists of his following works, all with documentary features. Simultaneously, Manoel de Oliveira was improving his knowledge by training in German companies linked to the cinema. In 1942 he made his first fiction film. “AnikiBóbó” had Ribeira do Porto as its setting and, although it did not arouse great enthusiasm from critics at the time, it is now considered a reference work by the filmmaker.
Disheartened with the lack of recognition, he devoted himself to the family business, but in the 1970s he would return with more commitment and in the late 80’s he had the most prolific phase of his career, making one film per year. Besides working with great Portuguese actors, he directed actors like Catherine Deneuve, John Malkovich and Marcello Mastroianni. When he died in April 2015, he was the oldest working director.