The Last Time I Saw Macao
PROD João Figueiras, Daniel Chabannes de Sars Corentin, Dong-jin Sénéchal
SCR/CAM João Pedro Rodrigues, João Rui Guerra da Mata
EDS Raphaël Lefèvre, João Pedro Rodrigues, João Rui Guerra da Mata
PROD CO Blackmaria / Epicentre Films
João Rui Guerra da Mata grew up in the former Portuguese colony of Macao, and in the tantalizing hybrid work The Last Time I Saw Macao, co-directed by VIFF regular and Dragons & Tigers juror João Pedro Rodrigues, João Rui returns. An old friend, Candy, contacts him after a suspicious murder during a paintball game, saying “strange and scary things are happening.” After João Rui arrives, it’s hard to catch up to the elusive Candy—but this gives him an opportunity to wander the streets, to the places of his childhood that have changed or no longer exist. Just as Macao, the city, is a blend of two cultures—Portuguese and Chinese—so Macao, the film, merges fiction and documentary together into an alien beast, a play of illusion and reality that earns comparisons to the works of the late Chris Marker.
With its noirish voiceovers (courtesy of both João Pedro and João Rui), conspiracy plots, and focus on rituals, the film is also laced with a subtext of cinephilia—The Last Time I Saw Macao also refers to von Sternberg’s classic, and its lead, Jane Russell, a kind of totem for the Joãos: the first scene sees Candy performing a tantalizing show to Russell’s Macao number, “You Kill Me,” standing in front of a cage containing live tigers. The Joãos put their first showstopper up front, but don’t worry—many more follow in this wild work, all the way to a Kiss Me Deadly-like ending that can only be called apocalyptic.