O Pai Tirano

One of the representatives of golden age of Portuguese cinema, it’s still hilarious. There’s an overarching plot of silliness and hilarious smaller bits which betrays its origin as vaudeville-esque popular theatre (known as revista).

The plot features one of those proto-malls that feature on Modern Times, with the rollerblading scene.

The employees have a amateur theatre company in which they perform translated French melodramas that look like Mexican telenovelas.

The “real” plot is a simple love triangle. The lady that sells gloves loves the guy that sells shoes, but he loves the girl that sells perfume.

This girl is a gold digger and she is already being courted by an dandy with a reputation for being broke. The gold digger is a “modern” woman, she despises the theatre and loves the cinema.

When the guy is rehearsing his play in secret, the gold digger notices and takes a new interest in him, since she believes he has a rich father that can give her a car, jewellery and big houses with employees.

On the other hand, the gloves lady participates in the play, so she must not know he is cheating on her, or the play is off. To keep the ruse for longer, they even perform the play in a “borrowed” palace to help the guy get the girl.

There’s also the play within the film.

A tyrant father from a noble family disowns his son when he wants to marry a commoner, but the climax reveals that the “commoner” is in fact the illegitimate daughter of his aunt with some other “reputable nobleman”. She finds her estranged mother, his father forgives him and all ends well.

The play is (supposed to be) performed by amateurs, so they milk giant cows everywhere and go emotionally overboard.

  • The stage director is completely inept, and can’t do anything by himself, requiring precise instructions for the simplest tasks.
  • The prompter keeps falling asleep all the time. He is not overworked, he does the same thing on the real job.
  • There’s an actor playing a butler that can’t remember when to say his lines, so he memorises a single word and simply repeats it over-the-top whenever says any variation of it.
  • A recurring audience member goes to the theatre bar asking for different foodstuffs. Since they never have anything, she asks with a sombre face: “in that case, give me two glasses of wine”

This is a light hearted comedy, so the plot is a clothesline to place incredibly fun skits on top. Some insensitivity is excusable for the epoch, there’s nothing that crosses the line.

The main target for criticism is the noveau riche, and small time bourgeoisie that was booming in that time. 1941 was WWII time for the rest of the world, but in our Portuguese bubble, the local tyrant had been ruling for a little over 10 years, the political volatile times had come to an end and prosperity awaited some of the urbanites that came in droves from the rural areas, at least compared to abject poverty in subsistence farming may of them abandoned.


This is my place for ramblings about sequences of images that exploit the human visual limitation know as persistence of vision.

Ephemera of Vision