A letter to Woody Allen

January 9, 2012 § 6 Comments

Lisboa, Rui Barreiros Duarte, ink on paper, 2011.

Dear Mr. Allen:

Why don’t you shoot a movie in Lisbon? Lisbon is an ancient city that easily holds its own when compared to Barcelona, Rome, London or Paris.

We wonder whether the Roman name for Lisbon, “Felicitas Julia,” would make a good movie title. Naturally, the title would be up to you, we’re just throwing out ideas.

Lisbon is a city of serious Woody Allen fans. Those who try to live here without studying your movies are ostracized. Eventually, they choose nocturnal jobs or migrate to countries with languages that have no vowels. Just because of you, the clarinet is much more popular than the banjo among Lisbon youths.

The themes of your work are all here. First, beauty. Lisbon has the looks: the Tagus river, the cobblestone streets, the ancient palaces with draperies that could be turned into clothes that would look great on Scarlett Johansson. Second, romance. If this was not a romantic city, why would Ingrid Bergman fly to Lisbon in the last scene of Casablanca? Third, angst. The Portuguese have angst about everything: about the future, about the past, about being invaded by Spain, or worse, losing in soccer to Spain. Fourth, fate. Fado, the word that describes the traditional music of Lisbon, means fate. Which other city sings about fate? Fifth, obsession with fame. We call our periods of occupation by the French the Napoleonic invasions, even though Napoleon was never here. Sixth, mortality. The Portuguese do not recognize the concept of death. We’re still waiting for the return of D. Sebastian, a king who disappeared in the 16th century. We think he is on an extended diplomatic mission.

Lisbon is a movie set that has taken centuries to build and that is ready for you. We very much hope you’ll use it.

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