SXSW 2017 Review: ‘Porto’ Is Art, Man

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Anton Yelchin should have been in Austin for the premier of Porto. Sadly, this will now be one of his final movies released. Porto is the sort of indie movie I knew Yelchin from, more than his blockbuster franchises, and it’s the sort of raw, edgy performance that only makes me sad we won’t see more.

Jake (Yelchin) is visiting Portugal where he meets Mati (Lucie Lucas). She is not single and Jake meets her boyfriend, but this is a movie. It’s not going to be about their platonic friendship.

Porto captures the experience of being somewhere foreign and meeting locals or other travelers. Even though it’s only 76 minutes long, it still captures the extended time Jake spends away and his developing relationship with Mati.

Yelchin is volatile as Jake. Brando in Last Tango in Paris seems an obvious comparison, but he’s got that danger where you’d tell Mati to stay away from him, yet he’s sympathetic when he’s vulnerable. Lucas gives the sense of an older woman shepherding a youth through this experience. For all I know she’s the same age or younger, but she has a maturity about this interaction.

There is a little bit of male fantasy. Mati comes fast and Jake can go again right away (like not even 10 minutes later). Okay, that’s a lot of male fantasy about prowess and stamina, but their love scenes are hot.

Porto was also screened on 35mm film so the crackle of film felt alive. It also changes aspect ratios, from widescreen 2.35:1 to Academy ratio 1.33:1. It’s clear what each framing represents, or at least it feels clear even if it’s open to interpretation whether scenes are literal or abstract.

Like Yelchin’s previous films Like Crazy and Rudderless, Porto shows an actor willing to be exposed and take risks. It’s an art film, for sure, so not as narrative perhaps as those films or Green Room, but an art film with many appeals: the performance, the sensory experience and the physical media.