Scen., F., M.: Manoel de Oliveira. Prod.: Manoel de Oliveira per Federação Nacional dos Industriais de Moagem (FNIM). DCP. D.: 59’. Col.
I was hungry for cinema when I did O Pão. I wanted to use every means and go to all places. That hunger for cinema made me show and blend many things: the co-op, the work in the fields, the factories with bread workers, many particular things from that time and era, many different and diverse means. I showed different ways in which many workers dress. That is, when harvesting wheat, they have their own uniforms with leather sleeves so that they don’t get hurt, because wheat is very aggressive. They wear hats to protect themselves from the sun. When I show wheat loaders and unloaders, I also show a different uniform. When they’re filling bags, they have another set of clothes and when they’re milling they have a different one, and so on, until there’s a baker who distributes loaves of bread throughout the city in the end. […] The idea for this film is that bread is like a current in a river that goes through different places, different hands, and different clothes or uniforms (let’s call them uniforms to make it easier).
Manoel de Oliveira, interview by João Bénard da Costa,
in Manoel de Oliveira – Cem Anos, Cinemateca Portuguesa, 2008
Premiered at the Cork Film Festival in Ireland, the film about bread […] did not please its commissioners, who appeared to be businessmen who speak loudly in opulent rooms filled with smoke. They would have preferred that Oliveira filmed a minister, to which Oliveira answered by saying he couldn’t have done that because there was already a Christ in his film… (the Last Supper painting shown onscreen belonged to José Régio’s collection of popular religious art). […] Despite being a commission, this work is heavily lyrical. Bread is viewed as a common thread in a great picture of Portugal of those times, from the fields to the city, in its different social components. The excitement of being able to film again gives new wings to the director’s imagination. Here, we can feel the poetry of Georgics but also the futurist poetry in these machines, a vision of Portugal of that time but also an immemorial Portugal. In more than one sense, the film continues and amplifies the vision of O Pintor e a Cidade (The Artist and the City, 1956). O Pão incorporates man in a global and transcendent image of the world and nature. “Personally, I’d like to suggest, in documentary film, a certain transcendence towards spirituality, filming ordinary events in a very plain way”, said Manoel de Oliveira in an interview with “Filme”, number 3, June 1959. One can sense, in those words “a very plain way”, the concern the director will always have in refusing easy, brilliant and sparkling effects. It is the respect for a reality with no manipulation, no distractions, no technical effects.
Jacques Parsi, Manoel de Oliveira: Cinéaste portugais du XXe siècle,
Centre Culturel Calouste Gulbenkian, Paris 2002