Dark moments in Lisbon, lighter ones in Paris

Lisbon at night, looking south towards the Tagus river.

Lisbon at night, looking south towards the Tagus river.

Last night I went on the Night Train to Lisbon. Unfortunately it was the film of that title and not a real comboio, or trem as Brazilians would call it. But nevertheless, armchair travel while you are sitting in a cinema with a big screen, and a glass of wine in your hand, is a pleasant experience. The film has had mixed reviews, but I enjoyed it. A dull professor from Switzerland makes a spontaneous visit to Lisbon and begins to see the world in a new light. There is a love interest and some tense drama involving members of the Portuguese resistance just before the revolution of 1974 (“What if your first assignment was to kill your father?”). Although there wasn’t much Portuguese spoken in the movie, it was great to see parts of Lisbon again. It reminded me why it is one of my favourite cities. And yes, you could spot the yellow trams like the one in the top picture above. Here is the trailer.

Cover of "Night Train to Lisbon: A Novel&...

Cover of Night Train to Lisbon: A Novel

The film is based on the book of the same name (translated from German) by Swiss writer Pascal Mercier. The film made me want to get the book, but after reading all the reviews of it on the Amazon website, now I am not so sure. While many gave it five stars out of five, many also gave it just one star and said it was long, implausible, pretentious and almost impossible to finish. One review claimed that reading the book meant being subjected to “an involuntary language course in Portuguese”. Perhaps that is not such a bad thing after all. I guess I will skim through it at a bookshop first before deciding whether to invest time and money on it.

Portugal does seem to be the flavour of the month, in Australian cinemas at least. Another film that opens next week is the comedy, The Gilded Cage. It’s about a Portuguese couple who have lived for a long time in Paris but then get the chance to return home after they inherit a winery (no doubt there will be food and wine porn in the film, at least some of the obligatory Portuguese cod, or bacalhau). It was written and directed by Ruben Alves, who was brought up as the son of Portuguese immigrants in Paris, and has won a number of awards in Europe this year. It’s mostly in French (its title being La Cage Dorée) but there is a smattering of Portuguese and, I think, people trying to speak Portuguese but confusing it for Spanish instead. It looks like a lot of fun. Here is the trailer.


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