The Convent ★★★

1995 Cannes Film Festival (In Competition)

Despite the absence of lesbian vampires, this—to my great surprise—resembles nothing so much as a Jean Rollin film. Both directors employ a static camera that’s well-matched by the sparse narrative, metaphysical atmosphere, and somnambulistic tone. There’s also a similar offhanded surrealism in the way the actors seem hypnotized but capable of breaking out at any time with lines like “All of this makes me think of a giant vulva.” Of course, De Oliveira is more highbrow, with his intellectual musings giving way to a wry humor (“Why do you read me Goethe’s Faust now?”). I wasn’t able to engage with it beyond its ambiance, but that’s nearly enough, and Malkovich adds a loose human element that keeps it from getting too stuffy.