Screened as part of NZIFF 2002

I’m Going Home 2002

Vou para casa/Je rentre à la maison

Directed by Manoel de Oliveira

France / Portugal In French with English subtitles
90 minutes 35mm

Director, Screenplay


Paulo Branco


Sabine Lancelin


Valérie Loiseleux


Michel Piccoli (Gilbert Valence)
Antoine Chappey (George)
Leonor Baldaque (Sylvia)
Leonor Silveira (Marie)
Catherine Deneuve (Marguerite)
John Malkovich (The director)


Cannes (In Competition), Toronto, New York, Vancouver, London 2001; San Francisco 2002


"Old age doesn’t automatically confer wisdom and artistic profundity. But when it does, as in the case of the Portuguese-born, Paris-based director Manoel de Oliveira, who is still making movies at 92, what can emerge is a remarkable mixture of appreciation and sadness, colored with an implacable, clear-eyed awareness of looming extinction… Here, Mr de Oliveira’s alter ego, Gilbert Valence (Michel Piccoli), is a distinguished French actor shown flexing his talent in roles from two plays: as a dying monarch railing wildly and foolishly against death in Ionesco’s Exit the King, and as Prospero in The Tempest… In both scenes, and in a third in which Mr Piccoli is shown on a movie set playing Buck Mulligan in a screen adaptation of Joyce’s Ulysses, the 75-year-old French actor displays an astounding dramatic command… These grand performances (his Ionesco is positively stormy) are also contrasted with Gilbert’s stubborn but calm offstage personality… 

The movie opens with the scene from Ionesco. But the moment Gilbert leaves the stage, he suffers a terrible blow: the news that his wife, daughter and son-in-law have been killed in a car accident. Where almost any other director would be tempted to milk such a shock for pathos, Mr de Oliveira maintains a discreet distance. There is a shot of Gilbert, hunched over from behind, hurriedly leaving the theater with his agent and friends. When next seen, he has regained his equanimity… 

Visually, I’m Going Home is an ode to Paris and to life. There are gorgeous recurrent shots of the Eiffel Tower, an illuminated ferris wheel and the city’s heroic statuary. The film’s many moments of pure playfulness include a leitmotif of Gilbert returning to his favorite, much-coveted window seat in a café, from which he happily gazes out at the city while sipping his coffee. Without indulging in visual trickery, the camera (Sabine Lancelin is the cinematographer) turns store displays into irresistible cornucopias… Avoiding even a hint of morbidity or of sentimentality, I’m Going Home gives you the steady pulse of life in a beautiful city viewed through the eyes of a character who, in spite of tragic loss and increasing decrepitude, knows in his bones that he is one of the luckiest men alive." — Stephen Holden, NY Times