Producer. Nationality: Portuguese. Born: José Condeixa de Araújo Branco in Lisbon, 3 June 1950. Education: Attended the Instituto Superior Tecnico, Lisbon, 1967–71. Family: Two children. Career: 1971–73—gambler in London; 1972—assistant director on Antonio-Pedro Vasconcelos's film Perdido per cem; also organized the Cine-Club of Paris-Pullman cinema, London; 1973–77—helped organize the Cinéma Olympic, the Artistic Voltaire, and the Action-République, and the Cahiers du Cinéma Festival, all in Paris; 1977—founded Hors-Champ distribution company; 1979—founded V.O. Filmes production company: first film as producer, Oxalá by Vasconcelos.
Films as Producer:
Oxalá (Vasconcelos); Aurelia Steiner—Vancouver (Duras)
Loin de Manhattan (Biette); Conversa Acabada (Botelho); Silvestre (Montiro)
Le Territoire (The Territory) (Ruiz); Francisca (de Oliveira); Amor de perdicao (de Oliveira); Ana (Reis and Cordeiro); A estrangeira (Grilo); Fim de estação (Silva); Aspern (de Gregorio)
Les Trois couronnes du matelot (The Sailor's Three Crowns) (Ruiz); Der Stand der Dinge (The State of Things) (Wenders) (co); O Lugar do morto (Vasconcelos)
Dans la ville blanche (Tanner) (+ ro); Pointe de fuite (Ruiz) (+ ro); Jusqu'à la nuit (Martiny)
Les Amants terribles (Dubroux); Maine-Océan (Rozier); Notre mariage (Sarmiento); Angola (Ruiz); Der Rosenkönig (Schroeter); Ninguém Daus Vezes (Mello) (co); Le Meilleur de la ville (Victor) (co); Les Destins de Manoel (Ruiz)
L'Île au trésor (Ruiz); L'Eveillé du Pont de l'Alma (The Insomniac at the Bridge) (Ruiz); Le Soulier de satin (de Oliveira); Vertiges (Laurent); Gardien de la nuit (Limosin); Faubourg St. Martin (Guiguet); O Outono (Canijo)
Across the Heart (R. Kramer); Les Mendiants (Jacquot); Eden-misère (Laurent); Mon cas (de Oliveira); Agosta (Mello)
Tres menos eu (Three Minus Me) (Canijo) (co)
Nao ou a vã gloria de mandar (No, or the Vain Glory of Command; Non, ou la vaine gloire de commande) (de Oliveira); Le Trésor des Îles Chiennes (Land of the Dead) (Ossang) (co); Border Film (Dubroux); Une Flame dans mon coeur (A Flame in My Heart) (Tanner)
L'Homme qui a perdu son ombre (The Man Who Lost His Shadow) (Tanner) (co); A divina comedia (The Divine Comedy) (de Oliveira); Bis ans Ende der Welt (Until the End of the World) (Wenders) (exec)
O Último Mergulho (The Last Dive) (Monteiro); No Dia dos Meus Anos (On My Birthday) (Botelho); O Fim do Mundo (Grilo); O Dia do Desespero (The Day of Despair) (de Oliveira); Das Tripas Coração (Twin Flames) (Pinto); Un Paraguas para tres (An Umbrella for Three) (Vega) (assoc)
Madregilda (Regueiro) (assoc); Les Gens normaux n'ont rien d'exceptionnel (Normal People Are Nothing Exceptional) (Laurence Ferreira Barbosa) (co); L'Absence (The Absence) (Handke); Vale Abraão (Abraham Valley) (de Oliveira)
Mil e Uma (A Thousand and One) (Moraes); Le Livre de cristal (Crystal Book) (Plattner); Fado majeur et mineur (Fado, Major and Minor) (Ruiz); Casa de Lava (Down to Earth) (Costa); A Caixa (Blind Man's Bluff) (de Oliveira); Longe Daqui (Guerra); Três Palmeiras (Three Palm Trees) (Botelho); Lisbon Story (Wenders)
O Convento (The Convent) (de Oliveira)
No Sex Last Night (Double Blind) (Calle and Shephard); Le Journal de séducteur (Diary of a Seducer) (Dubroux); Le Coeur fantôme (Garrel); Cinco Dias, Cinco Noites (Fonseca e Costa); Trois vies et une seule mort (Three Lives and Only One Death) (Ruiz); Os Olhos da Ásia (The Eyes of Asia); Party (de Oliveira); For Ever Mozart (Godard); Few of Us (Bartas); Caméléone (Cohen)
Transatlantique (Laurent); O Homem do Comboio (Bruxelas and Rezende); Pour rire! (Belvaux); Généalogies d'un crime (Genealogies of a Crime) (Ruiz); Viagem ao Princípio do Mundo (Voyage to the Beginning of the World) (de Oliveira); A Casa (The House) (Bartas); J'ai horreur de l'amour (I Hate Love) (Laurence Ferreira Barbosa); Porto Santo (Vicente Jorge Silva); Ossos (Bones) (Costa); Alors voilà (Piccoli)
Trois ponts sur la rivière (Biette); On a très peu d'amis (Monod); Sapatos Pretos (Canijo); Requiem (Tanner); Inquietude (Anxiety) (de Oliveira); Comic Act (Hazan); L'Inconnu de Strasbourg (Sarmiento); Traffic (Botelho); Longe da Vista (Grilo); L'Examen de minuit (Midnight Exam) (Dubroux); L'Ennui (Kahn)
Lila Lili (Vermillard); La Nouvelle Ève (The New Eve) (Corsini); Le Temps retrouvé (Time Regained) (Ruiz) (exec); As Bodas de Deus (Monteiro); A Carta (The Letter) (de Oliveira)
El Mar; (The Sea); Tarde Demais; La Fidélité; (Fidelity); La Captive; (The Captive); Palavra e Utopia
Perdido per cem (Vasconcelos) (asst d)
Les Tricheurs (Schroeder) (exec pr); Vidas (Telles) (ro); La Ville des pirates (City of Pirates) (Ruiz) (exec pr)
De grens (Frontiers) (de Winter) (exec pr)
Piano panier (ro as António)
Les Infortunes de la beauté (ro as Le gardien)
By BRANCO: articles—
Cinema e Cinema (Bologna), October/December 1982.
"Les Rôles des producteurs—la porte étroite," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), May 1985.
Screen International (London), 4–18 May 1985.
Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), January 1986.
On BRANCO: articles—
Celuloide (Rio Maior, Portugal), July 1981.
Cahiers, no. 458, July/August 1992.
Cahiers, no. 464, February 1993.
Les Cine-Fiches de Grand Angle (Mariembourg), April 1997.
Variety (New York), 22 December 1997.
* * *
In the first three years of the 1980s, Paulo Branco changed the axis of film production in Portugal. Since 1983, Branco has been the Portuguese pole of European production, putting his mark as producer on some of the most important European vanguard cineastes, Raoul Ruiz, Wim Wenders, Marguerite Duras, Werner Schroeter, and Alain Tanner, without mentioning his particular relationship with Manoel de Oliveira.
In Portugal, where production depended exclusively on financial assistance from the state, Branco, in association with Antonio-Pedro Vasconcelos, formed V.O. Filmes and started a small revolution, creating a system of complicated personal relations that has permitted him to produce a number of films unknown since the best years of the "cinema novo," a movement equivalent to the New Wave in France. The prestige he acquired in France as a distributor (showing films by Straub, de Oliveira, Ruiz, and Welles in France, and a variety of films in the Portuguese market) was such that he was able to attract to Portugal important European filmmakers, integrating them into his production system which relies, in equal proportion, on a love of film, rapid production, and a multiplication of financing which Branco, with his gambler's instinct, calls "controlled risks." Another factor in his success is the "clan" spirit he elicits, evident on the continued presence on his productions of the cinematographer Acácio de Almeida, the sound recorder Joaquim Pinto, and the set designer María José Branco.
The filmmaker most amenable to Paulo Branco's production system is Raoul Ruiz, a Chilean radical living in France. Since Le Territoire, most of Ruiz's films have been produced by Branco with financial backing through television, film festivals, cultural institutions, and "advance over receipts," a type of state support for film production in France. The secret of multiple production can be explained in part by the films' low budgets much below standard costs, and in part by the aesthetic and stylistic similarity between Ruiz and Branco. Ruiz's cinema thrives on an illusionist representation in which improvisation is a strong part. As Branco has said, "$600,000 or $700,000 on a film of Ruiz represents four times more money than on a normal film. Nothing is ever wasted. The amount of the budget is the amount actually spent."
Because of the difficulty in financing films by new filmmakers or films that go beyond the routinely commercial, Branco has used a system whereby he produces two films simultaneously, one, financially certain, financing a second film of uncertain standing. For instance, Wenders's Der Stand der Dinge supported Ruiz's Le Territoire, and Ruiz's La Ville des pirates was produced using a diversion of part of the budget of Les Tricheurs by Barbet Schroeder.
The production of the films of Manoel de Oliveira is, however, different from the usual system. Unlike Ruiz, de Oliveira is a perfectionist unable to surrender the most minor elements of his conception of a film. His films require a long and rigorous preparation, similar to that of large-scale European films. For Le Soulier de satin, however, Branco was able to provide a production of 50 sets, a cast of 7 months with a crew of 75 people. His Portuguese budget of $1,800,000, however, would have been $9,000,000 had the film been produced in France, yet this film, as well as Francisca and Mon cas, attains an unexpected splendor.
Though one cannot say that Branco has sparked a new aesthetic movement, his production system has been able to make films by new "auteurs," and new films by established makers (think of Dans la ville blanche by Tanner and Der Stand der Dinge by Wenders), and to make at the same time a type of European series B film which does not lack a characteristic mark of elegance.
—M. S. Fonseca