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(aka "Lines of Wellington" or "Linhas de Wellington" or "Les lignes de Wellington")


directed by Valeria Sarmiento
France/Portugal 2012


Director Raoul Ruiz (GENEALOGIES OF A CRIME) passed away during the pre-production of his only relatively more intimiate follow-up to THE MYSTERIES OF LISBON titled LINES OF WELLINGTON. Producer Paolo Branco (Manoel de Oliveira's THE CONVENT) reportedly proposed that actor John Malkovich (PORTRAIT OF A LADY) should direct the film, but the actor recommended instead Ruiz's widow Valeria Sarmiento who was not only a seasoned director of television and documentaries but also had been Ruiz's editor on roughly fifty projects since 1972. In spite of an early victory for the Anglo-Portuguese forces at Buçaco that resulted in five thousand French casualties, the French forces - lead by Marshall Massena (Melvil Poupaud, BLACK HEAVEN) still far outnumber them. The roads are glutted with fleeing citizens; however, instead of using that to his advantage and routing out the enemy forces, Massena decides to regroup in the freshly-abandoned Coimbra (in the home of a Swiss banker [Michel Piccoli, BELLE TOUJOURS], his wife [Catherine Deneuve, REPULSION] and her sister [Isabelle Huppert, MERCI POUR LE CHOCOLAT]). The French are making their way towards Lisbon and the sea beyond currently controlled by the British. The destination for the Portuguese and British, on the other hand, the Lines of Torres Vedreas where General Wellington (Malkovich) has been erecting a series of fortifications for the better part of a year to repel the French. The fleeing Portuguese time to burn out their own crops and dwellings, leaving the pursuing French with less opportunity to replenish their resources (losing as many soldiers to desertion as to their injuries and sickness). By the time they reach Torres Vedras, the only options for the diminished French army will be to attack or withdraw.

The film as such is less of a narrative than a look at the ways in which the lives of several characters are as radically altered as the country's landscape as Portuguese and British soldiers, nobles, peasants, thieves, ex-patriots flee the advancing French. Vengeful over the loss of his wife and child, Sergeant Francisco "Chico" Xavier (Nuno Lopes, THIS NIGHT) finds himself falling for Maureen (Jemima West, MAISON CLOSE), widow of a fallen English comrade as he looks after her during the long trip on foot. His uncle Miguel (Manuel Wiborg) mourns the land they had to destroy and worries that his son wants to follow in godfather Chico's footsteps. Recovering from a bullet wound to the head, Lieutenant Alencar (Carloto Cotta, ODETTE) flees hospital in Coimbra when the French arrive and first takes shelter with noblewoman Filipa (Marisa Paredes, THE SKIN I LIVE IN) and later winds up crossing the deadly terrain in the company of the ambiguous Bardalo (Adriano Luz, BAD BLOOD) and priest-turned-vigilante Zanaga (Gonçalo Waddington, MISBEGOTTEN). Nobleman Vicente (Filipe Vargas, ECCENTRICITIES OF A BLONDE-HAIRED GIRL) is searching for his lost wife and finds heartbreak. English nymphette Clarissa (Victória Guerra) - traveling to the coast and back to England with her younger brother (Francis Braddell Dawson) and ailing father - develops a concern for the poor and sick while searching for a potential husband. Camp whore Martirio (Soraia Chaves, THE ART OF STEALING) and thief Penabranca (Miguel Borges, WATER AND SALT) - accompanied by a lame idiot (João Arrais) - survive and profit according to their abilities. Meanwhile, Wellington awaits the arrival of the French, commissioning paintings and posing for flattering portraits by artist Lévêque (Vincent Perez, BEYOND THE CLOUDS) while musing on the the meat dish named after him (indeed, the self-contained nature of these scenes not only suggest a narrative indifference towards Wellington but also the practical reason why Branco might have asked Malkovich if he wanted to direct).

THE MYSTERIES OF LISBON, LINES OF WELLINGTON was conceived both as a theatrical release and a three-part television miniseries. The reported length of the mini-series is 170 minutes while the cut on DVD runs 151 minutes. While there does not seem to be a breakdown yet of the differences, presumably some of the deleted material involves the French characters, as some characters like the one played by Mathieu Amalric (VENUS IN FUR) - as Massena's aide decamp Marbot - have screen time almost equivalent to the more prominent actors listed as providing "friendly participation" even though he provides the French half of the film's narration (the Portuguese narration is alternately handled by the characters Chico, Alencar, Bardalo, and the Portuguese-born Briitsh officer Foster [Marcello Urgeghe, MOONFISH]). Also seemingly reduced to mere cameos - whether just in the cinema cut or in the overall editing (by Sarmiento herself) - a female Hussar (Chiara Mastroianni, CARNAGES), Malik Zidi (WATER DROPS ON BURNING ROCKS) as French officer with a Portuguese wife, as well as Deneuve and Huppert (Piccoli's screen time is similarly short, but his monologue on the Portuguese saudade gives the impression of a substantive "special appearance"). The ending - however historically accurate - seems anticlimactic here, but the film also does not effectively convey the overall loss to the Portuguese in terms of life and the land (which is largely conveyed through dialogue and compositions that foreground burnt-out structures and vegetation), but this certainly is a film that is all about the journey.

Eric Cotenas


Theatrical Release: 4 October 2012 (Portugal)

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DVD Review: Film Movement - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Film Movement

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 2:31:30

2.40:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.69 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio English/French/Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1; English/French/Portuguese Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
Subtitles English, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Film Movement

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.40:1

Edition Details:
• Making Lines of Wellington (16:9; 30:05)
• Theatrical Trailer (16:9; 1:28)
• Biographies
• Bonus Short Film 'Two Laps' (Owen Trevor, 4:3; 5:25)
• Film Movement Trailers
• About Film Movement

DVD Release Date: November 25th, 2014

Chapters 12





Film Movement's progressive, anamorphic transfer of this Arri Alexa-photographed feature exhibits moderate depth in standard definition (edge enhancement is minor but it does makes a couple shots already flat-looking shots look more so). Audio options include the original 5.1 mix and a stereo downmix with music, explosions, and sparse atmospheric effects in the surrounds (as well as some offscreen marching during the interiors). The optional English subtitles are without any noticeable errors (the English closed captions not only transcribe the English dialogue but also translate the French and Portuguese dialogue while specifying the language in which the lines are spoken for the benefit of the hearing impaired).

The second disc includes a half-hour making-of featurette, the film's trailer, an unrelated short film "Two Laps" about the seventeen year friendship of two swimmers that culminates in an annual race, as well as trailers for other Film Movement releases including the previously reviewed FOR A WOMAN and CANNIBAL.

  - Eric Cotenas


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Film Movement

Region 1 - NTSC


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