In 2011, Portugal was subdued to the short The Portuguese Falcon, the first Portuguese Fascist Superhero. Now, in 2015, and after a long post-production, the feature length film hit the country’s cinemas and is now a highlight of the Caminhos Film Festival in Coimbra.
The Sixties, Portugal. The country is under a happy dictatorship by cake baker António de Oliveira Salazar (José Pinto). In the army, General Seagull (Miguel Guilherme) looks for the ultimate Homeland defensor, and finds it in moustached Captain Falcon (Gonçalo Waddington). Falcon thrives fighting against the enemies of the Nation, and together with his partner, Partridge Kid (David Chan Cordeiro), he keeps Salazar and the Secret Police happy. That is, until some strange incidents with communists (and communinjas) lead him into a trap by someone from his past…
As the majority of Portuguese film comedy tends to fall into lower brow, The Portuguese Falcon is a breath of fresh air, combining a sarcastic and provocative view of Portuguese History with a tongue-in-cheek style, reminiscent of a 90’s comic book. It’s without a doubt a work of love, and the script by director João Leitão and Nuria Leon Bernardo is full of politically incorrect gold and quotable moments. It also does the apparently impossible feat of telling a very culturally specific story while still entertaining the “outsiders”. Waddington, who is usually at home with more serious parts, delivers himself to this schizophrenic character with all his soul, going completely overboard at times (Rice cake? *slap I AM A DANGEROUS MAN!!) The fight scenes, very eastern inspired thanks to actor and fight choreographer Chan Cordeiro (for some reason, Portuguese low-budget filmmaking seems to have a weakness for martial arts – as we’ve seen in the cult classic Ninja das Caldas), are of a superior quality to the ones you’re used to at this budget level, and, of course, the costume and art department (kudos if you got all the bird inspiration during the first viewing) are excellent.
Alas, the potential for a great film was lost on the direction and clunky editing. Playing safe where the script demanded bold, Leitão failed to make the best of its gags and his actors’ extreme performance, and left the film lacking the snappy rhythm that this type of comedy deserved. It is still, however, a potential cult film, and though not at the level of, say, Kung Fury, it is a solid step in a different kind of filmmaking in Portugal. Go see it to fight the Red Menace.
And by the way… Custard tart?
The Portuguese Falcon screened at the Caminhos Film Festival, the only Portugal-based festival dedicated to celebrate Portuguese Cinema. For more information about the festival and contacts, please go to https://filmfreeway.com/festival/caminhos