O Bobo

A Journey in the Festival’s History

Portugal  ·  1987  ·  Color  ·  118'  ·  o.v. Portuguese

Chosen by Miguel Gomes.

Lisbon, late ’70s. During a conversation between two old flames, the reconstruction of the last days of rehearsals of a troubled stage adaptation of the novel O Bobo, by Alexandre Herculano. The film by José Álvaro Morais, crowned in Locarno in 1987 with the Grand Prix Pardo d’oro, is a fascinating reflection on artifice and representation in literature, mixing genres and registers, history and music, present and past, tracing the signs of decisive social and cultural transformation in Portugal, just a few years after the Carnation Revolution and the fall of the colonial empire in Africa.

Selezionato da Miguel Gomes
Regista di Selvajaria

The 1980s were a golden decade for Portuguese film. It’s was a decade that began and ended with two masterpieces: Manoel de Oliveira’s Francisca (1981) and João César Monteiro’s Recollections of the Yellow House (1989). There were others, though, like José Alvaro Morais’ O Bobo from 1987. Although it won the Pardo d’oro in Locarno in that year, time did not grant him the international renown of the other two directors, and it’s a shame. O Bobo is the film that depicts the climax of Portuguese cinema’s anti-naturalistic element. It is a kaleidoscope of gestures, words, sounds, mise-en-scène, scene transitions and shot junctions. Everything is operatic in O Bobo. But there’s nothing grand about it, because it’s a comic opera. The film’s musicality, which is sensual, swinging and ironic, does not conceal the seriousness of the wounds. What is O Bobo about? In essence, it’s about faithfulness and betrayals. But it’s also about love, the city of Lisbon, theater and film, the post-revolution hangover, the founding of the Kingdom of Portugal, and the end of the Portuguese Empire. The grandeur of all that is impossible to separate from the film’s production timeline: it started in 1978 and went on for years with rewrites, reshoots, reediting and a demanding sound editing process. The sound editing in O Bobo struck me so much that I hired Vasco Pimentel as the sound engineer for my own films, after he had spent years working with José Alvaro Morais to create the incredible monaural symphony for that picture. Vasco told me he met with the director, the day after the Locarno awards ceremony, to write new dialogue for O Bobo. After they returned to Lisbon with the prize, they kept working on the film, which wouldn’t premiere until 1991, 13 years after the end of principal photography.

– Miguel Gomes




José Álvaro Morais


Fernando Heitor, Paula Guedes, Isabel Ruth, João Guedes


António da Cunha Telles


Mário de Carvalho, Octávio Espírito Santo


Luís Sobral, José Nascimento


Joaquim Pedro Jacobetty, Vasco Pimentel


Pedro Caldeira Cabral, Carlos de Azevedo, Carlos Zíngaro



Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian

Instituto Português de Cinema (IPC)

World Sales

António da Cunha Telles

Related biographie(s)