Cinematographer. Nationality: Portuguese. Born: Acácio Augusto de Almeida in Souto, 29 June 1938. Education: Studied cinematography at the Centro Universitário de Lisboa, 1963–65. Career: Assistant to cinematographers Jean Rabier and others; 1967—first film as cinematographer, Sete Balas para Selma ; 1969—co-founder, the cooperative Centro Português de Cinema; 1980s—associated as cameraman on several films by Raúl Ruiz; also associated with the producer Paulo Branco.
Ilhas Encantadas (Vilardebó) (asst); Domingo à Tarde (Macedo) (asst)
Sete Balas para Selma (Macedo)
A Cruz de Ferro (do Canto) (asst)
O Cerco (Telles)
Queridísimos Verdugos (Patiño)
O Passado e o Presente ( Past and Present ) (de Oliveira); A Sagrada Família (Monteiro); India (Faria)
Meus Amigos (Telles); Brandos Costumes (Santos)
As armas e o Povo (doc) (co); Deus, Pátria, Autoridade (Simões); Que Farei Eu Com Esta Espada (Monteiro); Gente da Praia da Vieira (Campos)
Trás-os-Montes (Reis and Cordeiro); Máscaras (Delgado); Continuar a Viver (Telles); A Lei da Terra—Alentejo 76 (Grupo Zero)
Veredas (Monteiro); Que fait-on ce dimanche (Essid)
Histórias Selvagems (Campos)
Bom Povo Português (Simões); Passagem ou a Meio Caminho (Mello)
Dina e Django (Nordland); Conversa Acabada (Botelho); Silvestre (Monteiro)
A Ilha dos Amores (Rocha) (co); Gestos e Fragmentos (Santos); Aspern (de Gregorio); Ana (Reis and Cordeiro); A Estrangeira (Grilo); Le Cercle des passions (D'Anna)
Dans la ville blanche ( In the White City ) (Tanner); Vidas (Telles); Point de fuite (Ruiz); La Ville des pirates ( City of Pirates ) (Ruiz)
Ninguém Duas Vezes (Mello); Maine-Océan (Rozier); Notre mariage (Sarmiento); Les Destins de Manoel (Ruiz); Jusqu'à la nuit (Martiny); Vertiges (Laurent)
Um Adeus Português (Botelho); L'Ile au trésor ( Treasure Island ) (Ruiz); Dans un miroir (Ruiz); Régime sans pain (Ruiz)
A Flor do Mar (Monteiro); Mammame (Ruiz); Balada da Praia dos Cães (Fonseca and Costa); Agosta (Mello); Les Mendiants (Jacquot)
El placer de matar ( The Pleasure of Killing ) (Rotaeta); Étoile ( Ballet ) (Del Monte); La Maschera ( The Mask ) (Infascelli)
A rosa de areia ( Desert Rose ) (Cordeiro) (co-pr); O Sangue (Costa); Il Maestro ( The Maestro ) (Hänsel)
Une Flame dans mon coeur ( A Flame in My Heart ) (Tanner); Terra Fria ( Cold Land ) (Campos) (+ pr)
Zuppa di pesce (Infascelli)
Pandora (da Cunha Telles); La Leyenda de Balthasar el Castrado (Miñon); Fugueuses (Trintignant)
Un Asunto privado (Arias)
A Tempestade da Terra (Fernando D'Almeida e Silva); Os Mutantes ( The Mutants ) (Villaverde); A Sombra dos Abutres ( In the Shadow of the Vultures ) (Vieira) (+ exec pr); L'Inconnu de Strasbourg (Sarmiento)
Yerma (Távora); Mal
Le Territoire ( The Territory ) (Ruiz)
O Bobo ( The Jester )
Holland, Jonathan, "La Novia De Medianoche," in Variety (New York), 1 December 1997.
* * *
The most notable aspects of the photography of Acácio de Almeida are his intuitions and his craftsmanship. Because of the noncommercial nature of the directors he has worked with (Manoel de Oliveira, Raúl Ruiz, Alain Tanner, António Reis, and César Monteiro, among others), de Almeida's work is determined by aesthetic imperatives. In almost all his films, for example, de Almeida functions as both director of photography and camera operator, paying equal attention to lighting and framing each shot. The phrase "cinematographic technique" applies perfectly to his sensibility and to his intimate style associated with the appearance of objects in the frame and with fast film sensitive to a minimum of light.
Since Trás-os-Montes (1976), a film by António Reis and Margarida Cordeiro vigorously defended by Cahiers du Cinéma , de Almeida's photography testifies to his taste for low-key lighting and the utilization of a single light source. In the case of Trás-os-Montes , his use of a candle's flame has suggested the influence of the painter Georges de la Tour. Not without some irony, de Almeida rejects the idea of any cultural influence on his work, noting that he grew up in a rural area without electric light.
There is, however, an influence that de Almeida has not rejected—that of Nestor Almendros who photographed François Truffaut's L'Amour en fuite in 1978. De Almeida shares with Almendros the same preoccupation—to discover in nature and daily life inspiration for his light. The lighting in de Almeida's films, as in the European films of Almendros, always seek to reconstruct and represent the principles of natural light.
Notwithstanding having begun his career at the peak of the " cinema novo ," an aesthetic movement that developed in Portugal under the influence of the Nouvelle Vague and the South American cinema novo , de Almeida can only vaguely be linked to the movement. For de Oliveira's O Passado e o Presente , for instance, situated on the aesthetic edge of the movement, de Almeida used high-key lighting and complex sequence shots, neither of which corresponds to the principal characteristics of cinema novo .
It is with Trás-os-Montes , a film situated between fiction and documentary, that de Almeida finds his style. Alain Tanner's Dans la ville blanche , a film which contrasts the brilliant light of Lisbon with the "soft lights" of the interiors, begins de Almeida's European series, which attains its highest point in his collaboration with Raúl Ruiz, a Chilean filmmaker exiled in France.
The "Raúl Ruiz-Paulo Branco system" of filmmaking, in which de Almeida is a continuing figure, lends itself to a permanent inventive delirium that attempts to explore to the fullest the magical outpouring of cinema. In this context, de Almeida's photography gains an extraordinary liberty, evident in the theater of shadows in La Ville des pirates and in the games of light, contrasting dull and vivid tones, in L'Ile au trésor . In these films, without abandoning realism, de Almeida's photography shows its magic as never before.
—M. S. Fonseca