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Colossal Youth

You need a bit of patience with director Pedro Costa, the chronicler – in films such as ‘Bones’ and ‘Vanda’s Room’ – of the lives of the poor, distressed, drug-dependent or alienated inhabitants of the slums of Lisbon. In this, the last in the Fontáinhas trilogy (named for a now partly demolished Cape Verdean ghetto) he observes the same, if evolving, minimalistic aesthetic.

He uses, if possible, non-professionals and locals as actors (asked, often, to do little more than line readings), ‘natural’ sound and fixed camera positions –  the Bressonian cinematic tool-kit, if you like, adapted for the differing living spaces, harsh realities and plaintive stories of his subjects. Plot isn’t important to Costa: in ‘Colossal Youth’ he simply follows the rambling days of the prematurely aged Ventura (named simply Ventura in the cast list) as he meets a succession of presumed family or acquaintances.

He tells them tales of his abandonment and refers to them confusingly – or symbolically – as his sons or daughters. The scenes run on like a series of little Beckett-plays, often sad but equally often suprising and funny, and characteristically shot in claustrophic rooms, alleys or corners, whether in the  darkened old barrio, or the bulb-bright new projects. But, for all the succession of encounters and faces, Costa’s not after a Dante-esque purgatorial round, and despite the austere DV-shot beauty of his images, he is aiming for an invasive pageant. Costa’s is an essentially dignifying and socially-progressive vision; the problem is that even viewers  predisposed to sympathise with it could well find his rigorous methods too obscure and his emphasis on active listening too overly demanding to share in it fully.

Release details

Rated: 18
Release date: Friday April 25 2008
Duration: 155 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Pedro Costa
Screenwriter: Pedro Costa
Cast: Vanda Duarte
Beatriz Duarte
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