(director/writer: Pedro Costa; cinematographer: Emmanuel Machuel; editor: Jackie Bastide; cast: Vanda Duarte(Clotilde), Nuno Vaz(The Father), Mariya Lipkina(Tina), Isabel Ruth (Eduarda), Inês de Medeiros(Whore), Miguel Sermão(Clotilde’s Husband), Berta Susana Teixeira(Nurse); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Paulo Branco; Criterion Collection; 1997-Portugal-in Portuguese with English subtitles)
“If you’re willing to go with the haunting misery done up in an aesthetic way and with conviction, this well-framed pic should do the trick.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Portuguese filmmaker Pedro Costa (“In Vanda’s Room”/”Colossal Youth”/”Casa De Lava”)directs the first leg of his transformative trilogy about Lisbon’s impoverished outskirt slum section called Fontainhas. It was shot in 35 mm. Every character is sullen and suffers from a case of severe depression, as we follow their morbid every day lives. These craven souls smoke cigarettes, shoot heroin, and can’t manage to properly care for their newborn infant. At first the film is enigmatic, failing to follow a narrative and more interested in taking tracking shots of the slum and its inhabitants. It follows its masculine looking female lead Clotilde (Vanda Duarte), who is stripped of all psychological responses and seems to have no inner being; but, then its slight narrative kicks in and we are shown how the suicidal teen Tina (Mariya Lipkina), Clotilde’s best friend, gives her baby to her deadbeat boyfriend (Nuno Vaz) and how a concerned nurse Eduarda (Isabel Ruth), the most sympathetic figure in the pic, has the neglected baby treated in the hospital. Then the wretched father of the baby tries to hawk it in the streets of Lisbon and on a prostitute (Inês de Medeiros) he just met, who can’t stand him but is taken in by the vulnerable infant. In the end, we see the pic is about young people who have children but can’t handle the responsibility and the filmmaker is telling us the same thing that the sociologists are forever telling us about the unfit impoverished who lead desperate lives of survival.
The film is so gloomy it should really bum you out. But if you’re willing to go with the haunting misery done up in an aesthetic way and with conviction, this well-framed pic should do the trick.
It was given a prize at Venice.
REVIEWED ON 5/7/2011 GRADE: C+