Love Me Forever or Never
aka Eu Sei Que Vou Te Amar
aka Speak to Me of Love
Reviewed in June 2011 / Click Here to Comment
Director: Arnaldo Jabor. Cast: Fernanda Torres, Thales Pan Chacon. Screenplay: Arnaldo Jabor.
Twitter Capsule: Cutesy-torrid-absurd lovers' duel unfolds over two arbitrary, jabbery hours

Photo © 1986 Embrafilme/Sagitarius Produções Cinematográficas
An early tip-off that the programmers for the 1986 Cannes Film Festival were thinking in terms of thematic pairs, Arnaldo Jabor's Love Me Forever or Never approximates the basic contour of Robert Altman's Fool for Love, which also bowed early in the Competition rollout. The Brazilian film, working with an even smaller cast of two, throws The Man and The Woman into a sequestered space and watches as they peel away at their personal history with each other, though it becomes an open question whether they really are tossing away the curtains or whether they are shrouding the truth, whatever that is, in ever more layers of pretense and play-acting. Love Me Forever or Never may strike many spectators as the more "cinematic" or even the more "stylish" of the two, but from my perspective, the more coolly administered Fool for Love has much more of a style than Love Me Forever or Never, using the tension between a hard-tunneling narrative and a diaphanous, distractable montage to generate important and consistent formal tensions that resonate with the themes of the piece. You could say something similar about Love Me Forever or Never if you really wanted to. After all, its pair of past, present, and/or future lovers have fickle and fundamentally incoherent feelings for each other, and in that sense, there is license for Jabor to throw a whole lot at the screen and see what sticks, even past the point where it all starts feeling a bit desperate and desultory: long monologues, low-grade video inserts, color filters, flashbacks, slow motion, spontaneous dances, lulls in the action. I don't even assume that he started with a scenario and arrived at the right, discombulated style for it. Love Me Forever or Never may be more committed to its bright, calico surface and its abrupt transitions in focus and tone than it is to the relations between the two people on screen.

That's a legitimate enterprise but in this case an exhausting one, and rarely very revealing of anything; I imagine it as the kind of movie where the actors and their director had a lot of Inside the Actors Studio-type conversations about how to keep the characterizations "specific" and how to agree on a backstory that gives Fernanda Torres and Thales Pan Chacon something solid to play, even amid such a flamboyant, heterogeneous vehicle. Nonetheless, what's on screen looks like barely controlled chaos to me. The swerves among truth and deceit, endearment and imprecation come too fast and too suddenly to really be worth following, and they trail on for too long. Occasionally, Jabor comes up with an image that resonates, like the yellow, red, and blue silhouettes that Chacon spray-paints on to his own glass door before Torres shows up to his house. When she arrives and sidles up to these vibrant outlines, adeptly scaled to her frame, it's a vivid if not a particularly innovative image of how many guises this woman is capable of assuming, and of how many outlines her lover tries to impose upon her. There are decent-sized cameos for two octopuses, one large and one small, and a memorable interlude of Chacon playing Narcissus, and a charming interval where the characters, feeling as spent as we are by all the high drama, grab a quick snack in the kitchen. This turns into one of those odd, improbably cheerful pauses where you realize through fighting that you and your partner have suddenly grown more intimate, perhaps even more affectionate, even or especially if the argument isn't over.

Still, that's all you can do with Love Me Forever or Never: isolate the impressions that resonate with you, and pull them out of a wearying envelope of colors, movements, pleas, confessions, and accusations that lasts at least 40 minutes past its welcome. The actors are attractive and seem more than game, but despite Torres' Best Actress prize at Cannes, Jabor's approach restricts how much creativity either of them can invest in the material. It's a feat just to get by and not seem swallowed by the more-is-more approach to a less-is-more scenario. The same could be said for us. The movie has its charms and might have a lot more going on for Portuguese speakers, but I make that allowance more out of duty than real conviction. The movie seems eager to flaunt its peacock feathers to a big audience, and yet I can't imagine seeing it outside of a festival, in which context it emerges decisively as one of those items you scratch off your itinerary before heading off to the next, more promising thing. Grade: C+

VOR: (2)   (What is this?)
Audiences with a thing for bright, primary colors and for cinema as sprightly, patchwork collage will enjoy themselves at this: it's like A Man and a Woman splitting up, or trying to, instead of coming together. Even when nobody's smiling, you feel like they could be at any moment, if only through their tears. There probably is an audience for what Jabor has cobbled together, though there would have been a bigger one twenty years earlier, when everyone went gaga over the limp Lelouch. Now it just looks derivative, and I can't imagine anyone finding it very "new" even if they enjoyed it. The aesthetic is atypical but not original; if you know where to look, and if you have a taste for it, there are plenty of other films like this.
Cannes Film Festival: Best Actress (Torres; tie)

Permalink Home 1986 ABC Blog E-Mail