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Still Lives: The Films of Pedro Costa

Sunday, March 2, 2008
5:30 p.m. Bones
Pedro Costa (Portugal/France/Germany, 1997)

Pedro Costa in Person

(Ossos). The first of Costa’s trilogy set in the Creole slums of Lisbon, Bones is the most “traditional” in the narrative sense, drawing upon a classic storyline—a child is born to childish parents—but set in a landscape unlike any other. In the crumbling maze of dead-end streets and collapsing new buildings known as Fontaínhas, a baby is born to a suicidal teenage mother, whose next mistake is to leave it with the equally disturbed father. The father’s dazed attempts to alternately kill, hide, and sell the infant lead him through a succession of encounters with the neighborhood’s luckless denizens (including several who would feature in Costa’s next works). Weathered faces, bodies huddled in the damp, hands clasped against closing doors: Bones captures a world like its title, one stripped of earthly pleasures and down to life’s essence. If the film’s angular, precise images remind one of Bresson’s L’argent, there’s a reason; Bones was shot by that film’s remarkable cinematographer, Emmanuel Machuel. Jacques Rivette called it “magnificent.”

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Costa. Photographed by Emmanuel Machuel. With Vanda Duarte, Nuno Vaz, Maria Lipkina, Isabel Ruth. (94 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From ICA)

Preceded by short:
Ne change rien (Pedro Costa, Portugal/France, 2005). “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.”—Scott Foundas (11 mins, Color, Beta SP, From Pedro Costa)

• (Total running time: 105 mins)