At the fifty-sixth annual New York Film Festival last fall, you could catch a documentary, foreign-language picture, political thriller, high-tech crime chiller, comedy, romantic melodrama, fantasy and sci-fi, and more — all in one wildly entertaining film that is having its theatrical release May 24 at Metrograph. Diamantino, Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt’s full-length feature debut, is an absurdist multigenre mashup that is as tense as it is funny, an unpredictable romp that evokes Ernst Lubitsch, Howard Hawks, Michel Gondry, Philip K. Dick, South Park, Cinderella, James Bond, Being There, Minority Report, and Au Hasard Balthazar while feeling wholly original. Carloto Cotta stars as the title character, Diamantino Matamouros, a Portuguese soccer star à la Cristiano Ronaldo (pre-sexual assault allegations) who sees giant fluffy puppies when he is on the field. After botching a penalty kick in the World Cup Final, the stupendously beautiful star learns that his beloved father and mentor (Chico Chapas) has died. His evil twin sisters, Sónia (Anabela Moreira) and Natasha (Margarida Moreira), become his agents and make a secret deal with the mysterious Dr. Lamborghini (Carla Maciel) and a government minister (Silva Joana). Meanwhile, investigators Aisha Brito (Cleo Tavares) and Lucia (Vargas Maria Leite) — lovers who are soon to be married — are looking into Diamantino’s finances and devise a plan to get close to him by having Aisha pose as a male refugee named Rahim who Diamantino adopts as his son.
Everyone except his sisters, who know better, thinks he is some kind of genius mastermind, but Diamantino is actually an addled simpleton who understands very little about life. He enjoyed playing soccer, likes eating Nutella and whipped cream sandwiches, and, following his tearful retirement, hangs out with his cat, Mittens, and dedicates himself to raising Rahim, who he does not realize is actually a grown woman. He’s reminiscent of Chance the Gardener (Peter Sellers) in Being There, but his airheaded statements — which are outrageously funny — are seldom mistaken for brilliance, except when he’s manipulated into making fascistic political statements he doesn’t understand. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes Critics’ Week, Diamantino is stunningly photographed by Charles Ackley Anderson, who quickly adapts the film’s visual style as it switches from fantasy to love story to futuristic thriller, with numerous memorable shots, including Lucia in a white nun’s habit on a motorbike, Diamantino and Rahim sleeping on pillows with large images of the soccer star’s head, and a huge fluffy puppy playing goal in the championship game. American-born directors and longtime collaborators Abrantes and Schmidt, who edited the film with Raphaëlle Martin-Holger, show a deep love and respect for movies, infusing Diamantino with charm and energy, humor and compassion, honoring, in their own way, the history of cinema. The rest of the cast and crew do their part as well, from art director Bruno Duarte and composers Ulysse Klotz and Adriana Holtz to the Moreira sisters and multidisciplinary Portuguese star Manuela Moura Guedes as television interviewer Gisele.