Frameline47: Will-o’-the-Wisp

  • Black firefighter holds up a naked amateur guy in a figure as another firefighter watches them

One of world cinema’s finest provocateurs, João Pedro Rodrigues returns to the big screen with a wild dystopian musical fantasia. Beginning in 2069, the future’s most erotic year on register, a king on his deathbed returns to his memories of youthful defiance and frenzied romance when he abandoned the monarchy to join the fire brigade. Trying to save his country from persistent wildfire, then-prince Alfredo (Mauro Costa) finds himself generating a different kind of heat when he falls for Afonso (André Cabral) during firefighter training.

Those acquainted with Rodrigues’ work in films like The Ornithologist and O Fantasma (Frameline25) will see the director’s subversive signature stamped across Will-o’-the-Wisp*, but never before has his cinematic world felt so breezy and playful. Continuing the sort of choreographed firemen erotica that Julia Ducournau brought to life in Titane, Rodrigues packs a lot into its scant 67 minutes: a steamy tale of first love, references to Greta Thunberg next to recreations of Caravaggio and Francis Bacon paintings, an indictment of colonialism, a musical sampling of Portuguese history, and above all an optimistic plea for the future of this planet.

*Preceded by “A King, Gazing at the Sea“, a 24-minute film about Paul’s unexpected encounter with a muscular man with a tanned complexion who quickly becomes his obsession, feeding a destabilizing desire. From the director of Exalted Mars (Frameline46).

Presented as part of Frameline47 International Film Festival.

1h 7m
João Pedro Rodrigues
Portugal & France
Portuguese & English
First Showing
June 23, 2023