Genre: Documentary • Biography.
Director: Miguel Gonçalves Mendes
Starring: José Saramago, Pilar del Rio
Language: Portuguese, Spanish
Duration: 125 min.
José and Pilar shows us the hidden Saramago, unravels any preconceived ideas we may have about the man and proves that genius and simplicity are indeed compatible. José and Pilar is a glimpse into the life of one of the great creators of the Twentieth Century and shows us that, as Saramago says, "there is always another way to say everything."
Jose and Pilar is a documentary directed by Miguel Gonçalves Mendes, following the Nobel Prize winning author José Saramago and his Spanish journalist wife Pilar del Rio during his last years, including the writing of his book The Elephant's Journey. It is Portugal's official submission to the 84th (2012) Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.
An incredibly intimate look at the lives of Jose and Pilar, that follows them from early 2006 until shortly after the release of The Elephant's Journey in 2008. Mendes accompanies them on their hectic life traveling non stop all over the globe to attend various signings and ceremonies, and along the way we get a good glimpse of the private and public life, loving relationship, and the fascinating musings of the famed writer.
The film is wonderfully edited, condensed to just over 2 hours from over 240 hours of raw footage, and plays out with a strong narrative that might be cherry picked, but never feels dramatically manipulative. It's filled with interesting sound bites and behind the scenes wisecracks from Saramago who didn't necessarily enjoy the limelight, but put up with it out of obligation.
In the end, you get a real sense for the man, his perspective on life and love, and indeed also the remarkable woman who ran the whole show as wife, manager, friend, and caretaker, and of the special relationship they shared. A touching and genuine story, but not as immediately exciting or awe inspiring as some other documentaries to come out this year, I think it's awards chances rest on how familiar the Academy is with Saramago's work.
— Bonjour Tristesse