I absolutely love this film, one of the best of recent years. On one level, it is an exquisite love-letter to Lisbon, with some stunning scenery and gorgeous songs. On another level, it is a kind of meditation on the theme that, whoever or wherever we are, we would prefer to be someone or somewhere else; this is constantly referred to in both the dialogue and the song lyrics. Until, that is, the uplifting ending, when the protagonist Julie discovers her true vocation in life.
It is also one of those self-reflexive films about making a film (worthy predecessors include Singin' in the Rain and Fellini's Eight-and-a-Half). The story tells of Julie, a French actress in Lisbon to star in a film of a 17th century literary work called Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun. The director of the film-within-a-film, Eugene Green, also happens to be the film's director! Julie meets a real nun, has an intense 10-minute conversation (the key scene of the entire film), and her life is changed forever.
The very deliberate and mannered acting style will not appeal to all viewers, but for me it is perfectly judged. The characters speak similarly to those in an Ozu film, though a better reference-point might be the late films of Carl Dreyer.
Highly recommended for connoisseurs of the "slow cinema" movement, my only criticism of the DVD is that, apart from a trailer, there are no extras.