This session is part of the Masterclass Films From The Archive

 

The first feature film by José Leitão de Barros (1896-1967) is a truly remarkable work, fusing aesthetic influences and artistic traditions as diverse as European avant-garde cinema, journalistic reportage, and the vaudeville stage. Advertised at the time of its premiere not only as a documentary, but also as a chronicle, Lisboa: Crónica Anedótica has a hybrid structure that confounded contemporary critics and pushed the film into the background of both Leitão de Barros’s career (his highly acclaimed Maria do Mar premiered that same year) and the history of Portuguese silent cinema (Douro, Faina Fluvial by Manoel de Oliveira was presented the following year).

Documentary film was a new concept at the time; in fact, the newly coined term had one of its first uses in Portugal in relation to this very film. Lisboa: Crónica Anedótica thus embodies the concept and practice of a new genre, plus the shifting interests and professional experience of the director, which encompassed cinema, journalism, and theatre. If we see it as the result of the intersection of these various disciplines, we can better appreciate its formal diversity (shifting between documentary and fiction, between capturing modernity and exalting tradition), as well as its episodic structure (theatre sketches alongside thematic photo-reportage) and its flexible configuration (morphing into different versions, tailored to specific audiences: Lisbonians, Portuguese, and foreigners) – all the things that make it a key work, offering a revealing insight into Portuguese culture at the end of the 1920s.

 

 

Lisbon: An Anecdotal Chronicle

José Leitão de Barros
Portugal 1930, 125’