Two Drifters (Odete)
Director: João Pedro Rodrigues. With Ana Cristina De Oliveira, Nuno Gil, João Carreira, Teresa Madruga, Carloto Cotta. Screenplay: Paulo Rebelo and João Pedro Rodrigues.

This month at the moviehouse, Portuguese provocateur João Pedro Rodrigues joins M. Night Shyamalan at the fable-spinning table, but unlike Lady in the Water, Two Drifters is about something. It also has a plucky and consistent sense of humor about itself, and both its characters and their secrets are allowed to exceed the grasp of the director-screenwriter. When Pedro (João Carreira) dies, he is grieved extravagantly by three people: his lonely mother Teresa (Teresa Madruga); Rui (Nuno Gil), his boyfriend of one year, though no one in the family appears to know about him; and Odete (Ana Cristina De Oliveira), a young and tempestuous gal who lives downstairs in Pedro's apartment building, and who in fact never knew Pedro while he was alive. Rui, whose bereavement has a powerful basis in adoration as well as guilt, can't summon the energy to do anything. By explicit contrast, Odete, whose link to Pedro is either mystical, insane, or non-existent (or all three), finds it all too easy to sculpt a bold new life in his memory: leaping atop his coffin during his funeral, tending to the gravesite, claiming him as the father of her unborn baby, though she may not even be pregnant. As a piece of Iberian queer cinema, Two Drifters fuses the seductive and disturbing metaphysics of Talk to Her with the frank, tacky energy of Law of Desire; not for nothing is "Pedro" the name of the ghost haunting the movie. And yet, Rodrigues navigates kitsch in very different ways. Unlike what we see in many of Almodóvar's women, there is nothing cozy or romantic about Odete's peccadilloes—she's a bit of a crocodile, like Gael García Bernal or Fele Martínez in Bad Education—and the lighting often has a purposefully garish, almost incriminating look, as in Fassbinder. Despite some imperfect conceptions and story patches that don't work, Two Drifters is an arresting and lucid study of how gay men and straight women often compete for the same objects of lust, the same velvety nostalgias for a certain vision of love. B+

Cannes Film Festival (2005): Cinémas de Recherche, Special Mention

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