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Arts and Entertainment

Special Event Alert: Pedro Costa Retrospective

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Considering his films are rarely screened at theaters in the United States, most people haven't heard of the great Portuguese auteur and digital video innovator, Pedro Costa . Happily, a remedy for that is arriving tomorrow when the first comprehensive retrospective in North America of his work unspools at REDCAT . His documentary-style films often center on life in the slums of Lisbon and have received wide international acclaim.

Screening schedule and extensive film info after the jump!


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Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie? (Où se cache votre sourire enfoui?)

France/Portugal, 2001, 104 min., 35mm West Coast premiere

Exploring the mysteries of cinema as practiced by the team of Jean-Marie Straub-Danièle Huillet, this film has been hailed as one of the best portraits of the filmmaking process ever made.

Preceded by 6 Bagatelas (Portugal, 2001, 18 min., Beta SP)



Bones (Ossos)

Portugal, 1997, 94 min., 35mm West Coast premiere

In this first installment of the Vanda trilogy shot in Fontaínhas, a Lisbon slum inhabited by immigrants from Portugal's former African colonies, Costa chronicles the desolate fate of an unwanted newborn baby.

Preceded by Ne change rien (Portugal/France, 2005, 11 min., Beta SP)

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In Vanda's Room (No Quarto da Vanda)

Portugal/Germany/Switzerland, 2000, 178 min., 35mm West Coast premiere

"As Fontaínhas is being demolished, we see Vanda and her friends smoking smack, shooting up, and talking trash. There are also moments of astonishing tenderness in which they seem even more defenseless, recalling the most mysterious encounters of the greatest fiction films." Film Comment



O Sangue (The Blood)

Portugal, 1989, 95 min., b/w, 35mm West Coast premiere

"Shot in splendid black-and-white, this prodigious debut film, bursting with visual and narrative ideas, homages, and a desperate romanticism, is a thrilling movie for cinephiles." James Quandt


Casa de Lava (Down to Earth)

Portugal/France/Germany, 1995, 110 min., 35mm West Coast premiere

Mariana, a nurse from Lisbon, travels to Cape Verde, at the foot of the Mount Fogo volcano, to bring back an immigrant worker in a comatose state.

Preceded by Tarrafal (Portugal, 2007, 16 min., Beta SP)


Colossal Youth (Juventude em marcha)

Portugal, 2006, 154 min., 35mm Los Angeles premiere

In this astonishing sequel to In Vanda's Room, fictional and documentary sequences alternate, all held together by the commanding presence of Ventura, who wanders from one encounter to another and from one temporality into another--all the while embodying the aspirations of his immigrant community.



Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie? (Où se cache votre sourire enfoui?) - The film was hailed by many as the best portrait of the filmmaking process ever made; many critics extend that praise to call it one of the best documentaries ever made, period. Undaunted by a commission to make a film about his mentors and aesthetic exemplars, the filmmaking team of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, Costa records with great sensitivity and insight the exacting process by which the two re-edit their film Sicilia!, discussing and arguing over each cut and its effect. Incorporating comments about the influence of figures as diverse as Chaplin and Eisenstein, about the ethical and aesthetic implications of film technique and such matters as rhythm, sound mixing, and acting, Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie? becomes a tour de force, immersing us in the mysteries of cinema as practiced by some of its greatest creators. - Ontario Cinematheque

6 Bagatelas
- Six unused scenes from Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie? One of the more priceless of the "bagatelles" in this collection features a lounging Jean-Marie Straub who gives a non-stop disquisition on liberty and filmmaking while Danièle Huillet busies herself with laundry, and their dog Melchior frisks in and out of frame. - Ontario Cinematheque

Bones (Ossos) - Long before the Dardennes' L'Enfant, Costa tells the tale of a baby born to a suicidal teenaged mother, whose equally young, blank-faced father uses the child as a prop for begging and then tries to sell it - first to a nurse who has shown him great kindness, and then to a prostitute. (He stashes the sweet-natured baby under the bed when he has sex with a hooker, played by Inês Medeiros.) Set in the Creole shantytown of Estrela d'Africa, Ossos introduces us to the character of Vanda Duarte, who becomes central in Costa's next film and has a key role in Colossal Youth. - Ontario Cinematheque

Ne change rien - "Costa's remarkable short stars the actress Jeanne Balibar in a trio of musical sequences that progress from the intimacy of a dressing room to the blinding stage lights of a crowded arena. It is said by Costa to be part of a larger work in progress." -Scott Foundas

In Vanda's Room (No Quarto da Vanda) - "In Vanda's Room is an intimate work, a chamber drama, as the title announces. I took it as documentary, but a documentary of unprecedented candor, the kind of movie Kieslowski claimed is impossible because 'there are spheres of human intimacy in which one cannot enter with a camera.' Costa had found his way into these spheres, among poor immigrants who can find only casual, irregular work and must struggle to create a space of their own in a neighborhood (Fontaínhas in Lisbon) that we can see being torn down around them. They belong to what some privileged technocrats and their dupes in the U.S. call 'the underclass.' So we see Vanda Duarte and her friends smoking smack, shooting up, and talking trash. But there are also moments of astonishing tenderness in which they seem even more defenseless, moments that recall the most mysterious encounters in the greatest fiction films." - Film Comment

O Sangue (The Blood) - "A prodigious debut film bursting with visual and narrative ideas, homages, and a desperate romanticism, Costa's O Sangue is a thrilling movie/movie for cinephiles. Shot in splendid, inky black-and-white and lushly scored with Stravinsky, it is a moody nocturne - even in broad daylight, it seems to be the dead of night - set during Christmas and New Year's in a provincial riverside town. Two brothers, the young, frail Nino and the older Vicente, who is deeply in love with school teacher Clara - 'Only you can save me,"' he tells her in one of the film's most potent moments of cine-romanticism - are set upon by evil men (an uncle from Lisbon and two violent debt collectors) after their father disappears. At once a fairy tale, film noir, love story, and murder mystery, O Sangue announced a major new talent in European cinema." - James Quandt

Casa de Lava (Down to Earth) - "An old violin-player (played by Portuguese musician Raul Andrade) muses, 'We ought to die as children and be born old.' Nurse Mariana has come to Cape Verde from Portugal to accompany a young, comatose worker (injured on a Lisbon worksite) back to his country and family. Not only does nobody seem interested in claiming the body, but Mariana becomes entangled in the lives of the mysterious inhabitants of the small village, especially Edite (Edith Scob, always brilliant). Costa' second feature, Casa de Lava is a pivotal work as it is the first in which he depicts the lives of the Cape Verdians who will populate most of his subsequent films.... It is full of images that haunt - for instance, Edite embracing the dog she has just killed on the black sand - but in it Costa's style has become less romantic, more austere, and the people more isolated." - Michelle Carey, Senses of Cinema

Tarrafal - The short was premiered at Cannes, as part of the collective film The State of the World, directed by Costa with five other filmmakers (including Chantal Akerman, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and Wang Bing). Costa returns to Cape Verde, the former Portuguese colony where he set Casa de Lava, and which is also the homeland of his (real-life) leading character Ventura from Colossal Youth . Costa now looks at the Tarrafal prison, built in 1936, where for nearly 40 years the dissidents of Salazar's dictatorial regime were tortured and killed. - Anthology Film Archive

Colossal Youth (Juventude em marcha) - Defiantly political, the astonishing Colossal Youth follows the 50-ish Ventura, a new addition to director Pedro Costa's makeshift studio system of Lisbon slum dwellers. Many of his friends, including Costa's muse, Vanda Duarte (now off smack and with child), have been relocated from the demolished, ramshackle film-set-like Fontaínhas to an antiseptic housing block. Partly disabled from a workplace accident, Ventura also needs a new home, but he's concerned there won't be enough room for his children, who are seemingly numerous, but may be nonexistent. The image, however, is very much present. A luminous glow caused by natural light, reflecting from mirrors held off camera, coats Ventura and his friends, revealing them as otherworldly presences, souls unable to find rest. A cryptic masterpiece of tremendous power, Colossal Youth has unmotivated flashbacks, probable ghosts, and drawn-out scenes that appear improvised (though Costa rehearsed and re-rehearsed, then shot 320 hours of footage over 15 months). The scenes all play out in real time, without camera movement, and appear unconnected--it's kind of like a Straubian Surrealist assemblage, where the pleasure is found in the coincidences. - Vancouver International Film Festival

Photo courtesy of REDCAT

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