An intellectual lodging in a boarding house falls prey to his own obsessions and numerous illnesses, eventually resulting in mental break down.
Winner of the Silver Lion at Venice in 1989 and much liked by many critics, including Americans, this is indeed an unusual film, but only intermittently enjoyable.
The central character (significantly named Joao de Deus and marvellously played by director Monteiro) is a poor and shabby intellectual who lodges in a backstreet Lisbon boarding house. A man of numerous obsessions (which include the landlady's nubile daughter whose bathwater he drinks), he falls prey to bedbugs, visits the doctor, and persuades the outraged landlady to fumigate his bare little room. In the fullness of time, physical illness induced by unhealthy living gives way to mental breakdown.
Photographed with a rich painterly eye for its surroundings and the collection of downtrodden victims and eccentrics who inhabit them, the film offers some wry and amusing insights into the textures of Portuguese city life as well as a window on the Portuguese sensibility. However, since we never really know much about the leading character, it's difficult to sustain interest in his eventual, somewhat surreal fate, while his detachment from all those around him unfortuantely also serves to detach the viewer from the film.
Well-made, and certainly intruiging, but hardly the hilarious comedy it's cracked up to be.