Part of what’s so great about the Prismatic Ground festival is that it makes space for genuine cinematic curios, works that are so sufficiently distinct from usual modes of creation that they might otherwise slip through the cracks. That is definitely the case with Where Is This Street?, a ravishing city symphony/film history examination by João Pedro Rodrigues and João Rui Guerra de Mata. Their previous collaborative feature, 2012’s The Last Time I Saw Macao, was equally gorgeous, as the pair examined the space and architecture of that East Asian city. Where Is This Street? finds the duo considering a subject that is, indeed quite literally, much closer to home: Most of the film is shot near the Roma subway station in Lisbon, where both filmmakers currently live. While this local focus is somewhat circumstantial (the film was shot during the Covid-19 lockdown), it was also the result of a provocative film-historical coincidence.
Rodrigues and de Mata live in an apartment that belonged to Rodrigues’ grandparents, and as it happens, a key Portuguese film was shot right across the street: The Green Years (1963) by Paulo Rocha. That film became the opening salvo of a new wave of Portuguese filmmaking, one which began in the waning years of the Salazar dictatorship. Influenced by early Godard, The Green Years focused on two young lovers, Júlio (Rui Gomes) and Ilda (Isabel Ruth), both new to Lisbon and discovering the wonders and the iniquities of the big city. (It’s worth noting that The Green Years was recently re-released by the good folks at Grasshopper Film.)
With Where Is This Street?, Rodrigues and de Mata have produced a tribute to that earlier film in the idiom of hauntology. Through slow, deliberate tracking shots, obtuse architectural angles, and close attention to the surrounding area’s vibrant landscape, they have retraced the locations of The Green Years, producing a film that is almost entirely devoid of human life, instead luxuriating in the shadows and on surfaces. And, as if simultaneously honoring Rocha’s film and welcoming life back to Lisbon, the film concludes with a cameo by Isabel Ruth, now a spry 83 years old. Where Is This Street? seems likely to become one of a handful of worthwhile artistic endeavors occasioned by the pandemic, but one that will resonate long afterward; it’s as stately and poetic as this pair’s 2022 film Will-o’-the-Wisp is madcap and exuberant, and it’s not to be missed.
Published as part of InRO Weekly — Volume 1, Issue 18.