Manoel de Oliveira was born on December 11, 1908 and he was an active film-maker as of January 2015, making him far and away one of the oldest film-makers in the history of cinema, making films even after he completed his centenary. He is the only filmmaker whose career spans from the silent era to the digital age and was still working on films right up until his death.
He was born to an aristocratic family in the city of Porto. As a young man, he enjoyed the life of a jet-setting aristocrat. He was an athlete, sportsman and car racer. His constant physical fitness played no small role in furthering his lifespan. His interest in the arts and movies, especially the masterworks of D. W. Griffith, Erich von Stroheim and Sergei Eisenstein led him to enter the Portuguese film industry. As an actor, he appeared in the first talkie produced in Portugal — A Canção de Lisboa (1933). His career as a director took off with shorts on the Douro River. Oliveira's interest in unconventional avant-garde forms of cinema and the repressive atmosphere of film-making under Salazar meant that he was by nature a late bloomer. His first major work was the feature film Aniki-Bóbó, which portrayed street-kids using non-professionals in a style that anticipated the more storied success of Italian neorealism. The poor reception (it would later be Vindicated by History) made Oliveira turn away from film-making towards his family's prosperous vine business. Sporadic experiments in colour film led to a controversial return to feature film, with Rite of Spring (O Acto de Primavera), which was a post-modern avant-garde film that combined documentary with narrative. The controversy surrounding the film led to Oliveira's arrest by Salazar's authorities for which he was jailed for ten days.
For most of Oliveira's life, there was no real film-making career as such and Portugal under Salazar offered few chances for talents to grow. It would take the Carnation Revolution and the decade of the 1970s for Oliveira to enjoy a prolific career. Indeed the vast majority of his films are made after his 75th Birthday and since the 80s unto the 21st Century, he's averaged one film every two years, representing the adage that surviving is the best revenge. He first broke through on the international stage with films such as Benilde, Doomed Love, Francisca. Doomed Love adapted from a novel by renowned Portuguese author Camilo Castello Branco (many of whose books Oliveira repeatedly adapted) is often considered Oliveira's masterpiece, a four hour tragic love story that has a rigorous style of film-making similar to Robert Bresson. Though it's hard to see and as yet unreleased on home video. Many of his later films were shot in France, using French actors, and he alternated French or Pan-European films with Portuguese films. He has worked with Portuguese Stars Luis Miguel Cintra, Leonor Silveira, Ricardo Trepa (his grandson) and also international actors such as John Malkovich, Catherine Deneuve, Marcello Mastroianni, Michel Piccoli and Claudia Cardinale. Famous titles in this international phase include No, or the Vainglory of Command, Voyage to the Beginning of the World, Abraham's Valley, I'm Going Home, A Talking Picture, The Principle of Uncertainty, Porto of My Childhood
In December 2008, Oliveira turned a hundred years old, receiving several honors such as the Order of St. James of the Sword by the President of Portugal. In addition, he has received multiple honours such as those of the Cannes, Venice and Montréal film festivals. He has been awarded two Career Golden Lions, in 1985 and 2004, and a Golden Palm for his lifetime achievements in 2008.
In April 2, 2015, he passed away, at the age of 106. May he rest in peace.
- Aniki-Bóbó (1942)
- Rite of Spring (1963)
- Doomed Love (1978)
- The Satin Slipper (1985)
- No, or the Vain Glory of Command (1990)
- Abraham's Valley (1993)
- Voyage to the Beginning of the World (1997)
- Inquietude (1998)
- I'm Going Home (2001)
- Porto of My Childhood (2001)
- The Uncertainty Principle (2002)
- A Talking Picture (2002)
- The Fifth Empire (2004)
- Magic Mirror (2005)
- Belle Toujours (2006)
- Christopher Colombus - The Enigma (2007)
- Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl (2009)
- The Strange Case of Angelica (2010)
- Gebo and the Shadow (2012)
- The Church of the Devil (2014)