Joao Rui Guerra da Mata

There is no such thing as “pure documentary.” While classified as “non-fiction,” documentaries ultimately form narratives depending on how the director chooses to cut the footage together. In The Last Time I Saw Macao, co-directors Joao Pedro Rodrigues and Joao Rui Guerra da Mata, conversely, draw attention to a fictional framework, a man searching for his troubled friend in Macao. However, this framework opens up to an honest documentary portrait of a city. Last Time I Saw Macao does indeed find a clever fashion in which to photograph its eponymous city, but sometimes lacks a certain ability to entertain. The film begins with a rather compelling opening sequence. Transgendered woman Candy (Cindy Scrash, star of Rodrigues’ To Die Like A Man) lip-synchs to Jane Russell’s “You Kill Me” from Josef Von Sternbergh’s film Macao (1952) in a direct homage to both the film and the city (many references are made to Von Sternbergh’s film throughout). Behind her is a gate harboring orange tigers, almost neon in the dark. This sequence prefaces the film as if it is about to be a film noir, especially given the forthcoming backstory: an unseen Portuguese narrator comes to Macao after receiving an email from Candy, who tells him that she is in trouble with the wrong sort of people. Throughout the film, the narrator, remaining faceless, leaves unanswered voicemails and emails for Candy and searches for her all over the desolate city.

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