James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.
Cole Clay // Film Critic
PORTO is a film you probably have yet to hear about from Gabe Klinger. He’s a director who has a clear love and knowledge of films that transcend serving fanboy culture. Klinger’s film is a slight two-hander that stars the gone-too-soon Anton Yelchin (GREEN ROOM) and Lucie Lucas, who is making her English language debut. PORTO is more of a filmmaking exercise from an academic point of view — and coming in at barely 76 minutes, it’s hardly a film.
Set against a one-night stand between the two aforementioned actors, Klinger’s story highlights all the whimsy and haze that surrounds meeting a new attractive person. Shot on various film stocks ranging from 16-35 mm, PORTO develops a romantic texture that is romantic for the European films of yesteryear. It’s of note that Klinger, an academic in his own right, made a documentary called DOUBLE PLAY: JAMES BENNING AND RICHARD LINKLATER about the relationship between two artists and how they converge. This explains Klinger’s fascination with blending a two-hander romance with experimentation. Actually, PORTO has Linklater’s fingerprints all around, and while the film is incredible slight, with little sense of an engaging narrative, there is something there with Klinger’s work that seems inspired by the famed BOYHOOD director.
Finally we arrive at the plot of PORTO: It revolves around a transient American living abroad named Jake (Yelchin) as he’s grayed and approaches the door to Mati (Lucas), a woman who remembers only in passing images. The film has a three-act structure where we first get Jake’s point-of-view, then Mati’s, and then a sort of semblance of how they each remember the night.
The biggest issue through the night is we learned nothing about Marti or Jake other than they are cardboard cut outs of humans. There’s simply no depth to mine. Sure, Jake has his quirks about the romantic idea of an American abroad — cue Ethan Hawke in BEFORE SUNRISE — but Jake never achieves that level. Same goes for Mati, who calls herself “crazy,” and only makes Jake more attracted to her in the long run. It’s pretty gross when you think about it.
The death of Yelchin was deeply affecting to me. He’s a contemporary who I saw grow as an actor on screen. And while this isn’t his best work on the page, he certainly makes strides as an actor to stand out. But Klinger has an idea of how couples remember things differently in a RASHOMON, type of way. PORTO sadly turns into an arthouse pornography and has no shame about displaying sex on film, which is a commendable act. Yet, it’s Lucas who, in my opinion, is objectified at times during the scenes.
Klinger has an astute knowledge of filmmaking and his technical abilities are remarkable, but PORTO is more of an academic exercise, rather than a film with a thesis.
PORTO opens on Friday, Nov. 17 in New York, in Los Angeles on Nov. 24, and is also available on Video-On-Demand.