Two mouths hungrily kiss. The camera pulls back to reveal it’s two young men, Rui (Nuno Gil) and Pedro (João Carreira). They’ve just celebrate their fist anniversary and exchanged rings: they’re madly in love. Their favourite film is Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Blake Edwards, 1961) and their song is ‘Moon River’:
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker
Wherever you’re goin’, I’m goin’ your way
Two drifters, off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world to see
But it’s not to be. As Pedro leaves to go home, his car crashes and he’s thrown through the windshield. The scene where Rui finds him made me purr. It’s a complete Sirkian moment but with a swooney romanticism Sirk himself was incapable of: Rui cradles Pedro, now a corpse, in his arms. The rings they’ve exchanged glisten in the darkness. At the very moment Rui embraces Pedro, it begins to pour with rain, a totally expressive rendering, just like the beginning of Written on the Wind (1956); and the citation is not accidental: A poster of Sirk’s Tarnished Angels is prominently pictured in Rui’s bedroom.
The other protagonist of Two Drifters is Odete. We’re introduced to her roller-skating through a supermarket looking very much like Shelley Duvall in an early Altman movie. The song playing is Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now’. When she gets home Odete, tells her boyfriend she wants to have a baby. He just wants to fuck. She lashes back at him. They part, and she’ll spend the rest of the movie, like Rui, engulfed in grief, seeing the other side of Clouds:
But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way
Rui and Odete will meet at the Pedro’s funeral. She will first try to pretend she’s carrying Pedro’s baby, then begin to shape herself into Pedro himself. Rui and Odete will end up together. But not as you think. And with Pedro looking on.
I’m an admirer of Rodrigues’ O Fantasma
, which I think a great masterpiece. Two Drifters
is almost as good: a very beautiful dramatisation of love, loss, grief and mourning — very moving, very queer. It makes me sad that so many of us spend so much time spouting our disappointment in Marvel or Tarantino instead of devoting more time to the depth and beauty of films like this one. I shall be seeing it again.