Nightstream 2021 Review: NAME ABOVE TITLE Sizzles in Style With Near Silence
Candide lives the quiet life of a serial killer in Lisbon whose exploits go unnoticed until a tragic event one night turns him into a social media sensation. Candide would like to carry on killing if he were not stopped every moment to take a selfie with a fan. Unfortunately for him all this attention threatens to uncover his murderous exploits. If ever the truth about that night comes out he may never be able to kill again.
There are many things that make Carlos Conceição’s Name Above Title stand out. First, the biggest discovery is that the story is told with no decipherable dialogue, at all. There is some vocalization but it is more of a mumble than a murmur. You have an idea what is being said but you do not need to know what anyone is saying because their gestures, glances and looks tell the story. Two, it’s only an hour long. Perhaps that is too short by some to be considered feature length but there is no laboring about when you have a story that is this focused.
Joana Ribeiro stars as all the victims. She represents not only objects of deadly desire for Candide but by playing all the victims no victim is distinguishable from one to the next. Save for a costume and hair change, to Candide his prey all look alike. There are no identities, only victims. Matthieu Charneau is the killer Candide. Graced with good looks and charm, he's suave, confident and can win you over with a smile.
João Arrais joins the director again, in numerous roles as well. He prominently appears as a cool hunter who discovers ‘the hero’ Candide and as the paparazzi photographer who begins to uncover Candide’s true nature. Likewise only two other actresses make up the main cast of this film, Leonor Silveira in another dual role and Teresa Madruga.
Not only is Name Above Title exotic, sexy and deadly but it is incredibly well made and photographed. Stylish to boot, some scenes, backed by a striking soundtrack, create music video-like segueys into new chapters of the story. What is also interesting is that the film is presented in a 4:3 ratio, perhaps as a nod to the silent film era which was also shot in the same aspect ratio. Saying that Conceição’s film is respectively a silent film could be seen as a reach, but why not come to that conclusion because of the way he has presented it?
It is fascinating how little light Conceição brings to the production. Instead it appears that he uses only existing and surrounding light sources to illuminate most of the shots. Strings of lights along coastlines act as backlighting. He is using what we would call light pollution any other time as his source of light. Light from the city in the distance reflects off cloud cover over piers where Candide disposes of his victims. It’s dark as night yet you can clearly see everything that is happening without bathing the scene in iridescence. It is a strange effect.
Before he seemingly pays tribute to 70s cult directors like Russell and Jorodowsky in his film’s final moments, Name Above Title is something akin to Yann Gonzalez’s giallo thriller Knive + Heart. While not overtly giallo itself there are some of the same elements within it, a heightened sense of eroticism being probably the most prominent of all. Visually arresting at times Conceição creates lasting images of beauty and violence that will linger long after viewing. He also earns high marks for using existing light sources to illuminate the sex and danger in his 4:3 world. All of this is achieved with nary a word said.
Definitely recommended for those who favor presentation over exposition.