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Debut Of A Portugese Minimalist

 

Wednesday, August 1-----When COLOSSAL YOUTH, Portugese director Pedro Costa's minimalist mural of urban decay in contemporary Lisbon, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006, it was the kind of film that critics love to argue about. Some of the film's (and the director's) supporters declared the film to a meditative study of societal tensions, while others found its slow pacing and oversized length (nearly 3 hours) to be almost unbearable. Walk outs at Cannes (not to mention the fine art of booing) can actually be a kind of reverse cache for a film, but the controversy surrounding Costa and his oeuvre has made it difficult for his films to be seen by a wider American public. In fact, I believe that none of his films have actually had a full fledged theatrical distribution....until now.

Pedro CostaPedro CostaThe fearless Anthology Film Archives in New York City, a citadel of experimental cinema, will premiere COLOSSAL YOUTH this Friday as part of the series STILL LIVES: THE FILMS OF PEDRO COSTA, which continues for the next week. For many of the films, this is the first theatrical booking they have had outside the film festival circuit, and for those willing to slow down to the films' deliberate rhythms, there is much to admire here. Hopefully, the press generated by this booking will create interest from an intrepid American distributor to get the film seen around the country.

A potent mix of social realism and hypnotic poetry, COLOSSAL YOUTH is set set in the former Cape Verdean quarter of Lisbon, where poverty, crime and social malaise deplete the hopes and ambitions of its immigrant population. The film focuses on Ventura, an elderly ex-laborer who is moving out of the poverty stricken neighborhood to a new quarter (and perhaps, a situation of renewed hope). The film uses this device to offer a diverse tableaux of assorted Lisbonites, including a mother who is a former heroin addiction (and the subject of Costa's previous film IN VANDA'S ROOM). Working with a mainly non-professional cast, the film has a striking authenticity to it, but also a kind of Portugese equivalent to magical realism that elevates the subject to pure poetry. Costa uses digital video to present imagery of stark contrasts, which is a kind of metaphor to social inequalities and the divide between men and women. The filmmaker likes to follow his subjects in real time, in scenes with very long takes which can be either brilliantly austere or snooze-worthy boring. This attention to detail and the random vignettes that add up to a powerful whole are pieces in the larger puzzle of both the film and the society it is chroniciling.

COLOSSAL YOUTH is certainly demanding, but also intensely rewarding. If one's cinematic tastes go to the works of Alain Resnais, Michaelangelo Antonioni, Chantal Akerman and other minimalist auteurs, the cumulative effect can be impressive. Other films screening in the series include THE BLOOD (1989), DOWN TO EARTH (1994), BONES (1997), IN VANDA'S ROOM (2000),  and WHERE DOES YOUR HIDDEN SMILE LIE (2001), an acclaimed documentary on Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet, focusing on the filmmakers at work on the editing of SICÍLIA!, a major film which has not screened in New York since the 1999 New York Film Festival. For more information on this and upcoming film series, visit the website of the Anthology Film Archives: www.anthologyfilmarchives.org

Sandy Mandelberger, Coming Attractions Editor

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About Coming Attractions

Sandy Mandelberger
(International Media Resources)

Previews of Upcoming Films, Videos and New Media Coming To Theaters, Festivals, DVD and the Internet.


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