Family & Companions
Acknowledged as one of Brazil's foremost actresses, Fernanda Montenegro has been an infrequent presence in cinema. Like Britain's Judi Dench, this performer has instead chosen to concentrate on a stage and TV career but when she deigns to act in movies, the results are usually more than worthy. Born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Montenegro began her career in 1950 as a radio performer before segueing to the boards, where she enjoyed her first real success in the title role of "Jezebel" by Jean Anouilh. Additional success came with roles in such diverse classics "A Flea in Her Ear," "A View From the Bridge" and "The Imaginary Invalid." Moving to features, she was featured in "A Falecida/The Deceased" (1965), about a woman who is convinced she's dying and plans an elaborate funeral. As the matriarch of a wealthy family coming apart through infidelity, incest, homosexuality and suicide in "Percado Mortal/Mortal Sin" (1970), Montenegro kept her dignity and grounded her character in reality. At the 1970 Moscow Film Festival, she received the Best Actress trophy for her leading role in "Em Familia."
For much of the next decade, she concentrated on stage and TV roles appearing only in one film. "Everything's Fine/Tudo Bem" (1977) which earned her a Best Actress citation at the Taorima Film Festival. In the early 80s. after a turn in the comedy-drama "Eles nao Usam Black-Tie/They Don't Wear Black Tie" (1981), Montenegro had a stage triumph in the title role of "The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant" which ran for three years and earned her numerous accolades. A frequent presence on telenovelas, the actress continued to make infrequent film appearances, like portraying a fortune teller in "A Hora de Estrela/Hour of the Star" (1985) and acted with her husband Fernando Torres in "Veja Esta Cancao/Rio's Love Songs/See This Song" (1994). Bruno Barreto tapped her for a small role in his Oscar-nominated "Four Days in September/O que e Isso, Compaheiro" (1997), which prominently featured her actress daughter Fernanda Torres. In 1998, at an age when many actors would be considering retirement, Montenegro delivered one of her finest screen characterizations as the gruff former schoolteacher who embarks on a road trip to help a young boy find his father in "Central do Brasil/Central Station" (1998). Her Dora is a cynical, embittered woman, alone and lonely, who passes her time earning extra money writing letters for the illiterate at Rio de Janiero's train station. Playing God with people's lives (she and a neighbor read the letters and either tear them up or put them aside with the vague notion of posting them), Dora comes to feel more human through her interactions with the boy Josue. Montenegro's performance grows over the course of the film and she uses her wonderful, lived-in face and large eyes to convey various emotions. The accolades began accumulating early as she picked up the Best Actress trophy at the Berlin Film Festival; by year's end there was even speculation about an Oscar nomination which she justly received.
Cast (Feature Film)
Began career as a radio announcer
Had first stage success in "Jezebel" by Jean Anouilh
Appeared on stage in "A Flea in His Ear"
Enjoyed a stage success in Arthur Miller's "A View From the Bridge"
Film acting debut, "A Falecida/The Deceased"
Won attention at the Moscow Film Festival for her performance in "Em Familia"
Portrayed the mother in the Gothic thriller "Pecado Mortal/Mortal Sin"
Starred in "Everything's Fine/Tudo Bem"
Appeared in "They Don't Wear Black Tie/Eles nao Usam Black-Tie"
Starred in stage adaptation of "The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant"
Had regular role in Brazilian telenovela "Guerra dos Sexes"
Featured in the telenovela "Cambalacho"
Portrayed the Fortune Teller in "A Hora da Estrela/Hour of the Star"
Acted with her husband Fernando Torres in "See This Song/Rio's Love Songs"
Starred in the Brazilian TV series "Zaza"; show also featured Torres
Appeared in Bruno Barreto's "Four Days in September"; film also featured daughter Fernanda Torres
Had international success as the lead in "Central Station/Central do Brasil"
Plays a retired woman who thinks she sees an ex cop (Raul Cortez) commit murder and becomes a police informant in Marcos Bernstein's "The Other Side of the Street"
Starrred opposite real life daughter Fernanda Torres, in Andrucha Waddington's "The House of Sand"
Had a supporting role in Gabriel Garcia Márquez's "Love in the Time of Cholera"