O abysmal: Portuguese import O Fantasma offers a sexy leading man and little else

Alonso Duralde

O Fantasma * Starring Ricardo Meneses, Beatriz Torcato, Andre Barbosa * Written by Joao Pedro Rodrigues, Jose Neves, Paulo Rebelo, Alexandre Melo * Directed by Joao Pedro Rodrigues * Picture This! Entertainment

It’s the same old story: Boy stalks boy, boy kidnaps boy, boy starts running around in black latex outfit. OK, that plotline may not actually be a cliche, but it’s presented in such a stilted and boring manner in the Portuguese film O Fantasma that it might as well be one. Director Joao Pedro Rodrigues may have some motivation behind the film–apart from showing hunky leading man Ricardo Meneses wearing as little as possible in sexually provocative situations–but it’s tough to figure out.

The film occasionally calls to mind Head On (1998), which also revolved around the nihilistic adventures of a pouty, sexually restless beauty, but we get precious few hints about who O Fantasma’s Sergio is or why we should care about his lust for a mysterious motorcycle boy. The film scores best in its long, wordless passages that show Sergio at work (as a garbage collector) or play (a tearoom sex scene features fully explicit fellatio), but ultimately, nothing ever adds up to anything. By the time Sergio’s obsession has gone round the bend and he’s running around looking like a cross between Gumby, Diabolik, and the Gimp from Pulp Fiction, there’s nothing left for the audience to take home apart from the nudity and a few cheap thrills.

O Fantasma plays like one of those pretentious Swedish imports of the 1960s, when audiences would pretend to be interested in the “art” when they were really just curious (yellow) to see sex on the screen. Porn rentals may be hard to come by in Portugal, but American audiences may find that there’s nothing in this movie they can’t pick up at their local pop-and-pop video store.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Liberation Publications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group

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