508 Letters from Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
Message
Author
rrenault
Posts: 600
Joined: Wed Nov 17, 2010 3:49 pm

Re: 508 Letters from Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa

#101 Post by rrenault » Tue Jul 12, 2011 4:07 pm

Nothing wrote:
Alan Smithee wrote:without dv equipment it probably would have been very hard to develop the intimacy with the community that these three films are founded on.
One person can operate a film camera just as well as a video camera if they make the effort. With 16mm, the levels of light required are similar to video too. But it would have pushed costs up, given the amount of footage that Costa supposedly shot, and so may have made the project impossible on a budgetary level. It also would have been less trendy...

Agreed that a blu-ray set of Alonso's first 2.5 films would be quite welcome, if acceptably priced (ie. almost certainly not from Criterion!). Fantomas doesn't really hold up on it's own, it's more of an extra, but the other two are of relatively equal quality and both quite short - all 3 films + extras over 2 discs, $40rrp, would be about right in the current market.
Alan Smithee wrote:That don't make no sense.
Presumably somone lost / fucked up the Collosal Youth disc and even Netflix can't afford to replace it - rather underlines the point, I believe. For my own part, there are a few people I'd like to lend the Colossal Youth disc to, but haven't, for very much the same reason. Have no doubt that the price of this set is very quantitively preventing a lot of people from seeing Colossal Youth - which is silly, as it's a 2006 production for which no new master needs to be created, ie. a film that should be available for $10 on Amazon by now. Actually, I'm a bit surprised that a UK label like Second Run hasn't already released it at this price.

Except that I'm sure Netflix purchases more than one copy of the discs they do in fact decide and bother to carry.

User avatar
swo17
Posts: 13616
Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:25 am
Location: SLC, UT

Re: 508 Letters from Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa

#102 Post by swo17 » Tue Jul 12, 2011 5:27 pm

However many copies they bought, that's how many they lost.

User avatar
denti alligator
Posts: 2733
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:36 pm
Location: "born in heaven, raised in hell"

Re: 508 Letters from Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa

#103 Post by denti alligator » Mon Aug 01, 2011 12:02 pm

I thought Ossos (the only one I've watched so far) was good. But just good. I liked the color palette that Costa built up, and I thought the shots of the labyrinthine subdivision of Lisbon (the architecture, the alleys) were really excellent. I didn't have a sense of what the characters' motivations were, and thought maybe that was the point--that even they didn't understand why they were acting they way they were? But this seemed lazy on the part of Costa. And it didn't help that in his discussion with Gorin he basically admits that he doesn't know. That crucial scene early on when the father comes home after the mother had turned on the gas: did he save them? did she turn off the gas earlier? how would she have the energy to drag him out of the room? why does he collapse? Well, the filmmaker doesn't really know, either.

I found the discussion with Gorin frustrating. Costa says so little, and the little he says is extremely repetitive and not very informative. And his mannerisms didn't help.

I'll be viewing Colossal Youth tonight.

User avatar
Peacock
Posts: 1009
Joined: Mon Dec 22, 2008 7:47 pm
Location: Scotland

Re: 508 Letters from Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa

#104 Post by Peacock » Mon Aug 01, 2011 12:41 pm

Why not watch In Vanda's Room first? It helps set up Colossal Youth much more than Ossos, I mean, these two films are almost completely different in every aspect apart from a recurring non-actor and the location.

User avatar
denti alligator
Posts: 2733
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:36 pm
Location: "born in heaven, raised in hell"

Re: 508 Letters from Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa

#105 Post by denti alligator » Mon Aug 01, 2011 12:43 pm

Well, actually, I'd like to, but I'm reading the newest Ranciere book with some colleagues, and we agreed to get together tonight to watch Colossal Youth before reading the last chapter, which is more about that film than any of the others.

User avatar
zedz
Posts: 10351
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 7:24 pm

Re: 508 Letters from Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa

#106 Post by zedz » Mon Aug 01, 2011 3:44 pm

denti alligator wrote:I thought Ossos (the only one I've watched so far) was good. But just good.
I actually think Ossos is quite mediocre, but each subsequent film improves in leaps and bounds on the one before, so hopefully you'll get a lot more out of Colossal Youth.

User avatar
knives
Posts: 14105
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: 508 Letters from Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa

#107 Post by knives » Mon Aug 01, 2011 4:05 pm

I'd agree with you, but I genuinely prefer Vanda to Youth. I'm not entirely certain why. Possibly it's that I can ignore the characters more easily and wind up focusing on the compositions.

User avatar
denti alligator
Posts: 2733
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:36 pm
Location: "born in heaven, raised in hell"

Re: 508 Letters from Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa

#108 Post by denti alligator » Mon Aug 01, 2011 10:47 pm

Alright, can someone explain how Colossal Youth deserves the top-10 film of the decade accolades? I didn't NOT like it; but I certainly don't see what all the fuss is about. Maybe I was just not in the right mood, but I found the film hard to watch--and it wasn't just the pace.

Zot!
Posts: 1244
Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2010 12:09 am

Re: 508 Letters from Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa

#109 Post by Zot! » Tue Aug 02, 2011 11:36 am

Youth was the only one I haven't seen yet, but I agree with you that so far I don't understand the accolades. The intimate feel and attractive DV photography is commendable, but the Larry Clarkesque focus on junkies and their sordid lives seems a little contrived.

User avatar
Peacock
Posts: 1009
Joined: Mon Dec 22, 2008 7:47 pm
Location: Scotland

Re: 508 Letters from Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa

#110 Post by Peacock » Tue Aug 02, 2011 11:41 am

Although this isn't really answering your question Denti, I'd recommend checking out the two shorts in the Criterion set which Costa made after Colossal Youth. For me they helped me realize why Colossal Youth is so great, but it's hard to put into words...!

And Zot! There is almost no drugs or current users in Colossal Youth so the Larry Clark comparison doesn't work for me.

Zot!
Posts: 1244
Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2010 12:09 am

Re: 508 Letters from Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa

#111 Post by Zot! » Tue Aug 02, 2011 11:55 am

Cool, sorry, I had assumed the trend would continue. I will make sure to watch Youth and the shorts, because I wish to be enlightened!

User avatar
Guido
Posts: 127
Joined: Sat May 31, 2008 11:31 pm

Re: 508 Letters from Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa

#112 Post by Guido » Tue Aug 02, 2011 11:58 am

It's hard for me to put into words the greatness of Colossal Youth as well, though I did try a few pages back in this thread. Of course, any experience with Costa's work(s) will benefit greatly from a chronological viewing, which is ironic given the extent to which CY obliterates any traditional notion of time. Sure, it deploys a structure that revolves around (strange, almost oneiric) flashbacks, but as the film progresses, we suddenly lose the ability to tell just when the characters are existing. There seems to be so many modes of address at play here, but we're unable to locate them in any temporal sense. The result is something almost legendary, which creates a tension, especially given the locale of the series. The way the film manages to successfully merge different personal stories on this kind of level is for me key to understanding Costa's relationship to those who populate his films.

User avatar
John Cope
Posts: 1413
Joined: Thu Dec 15, 2005 5:40 pm
Location: where the simulacrum is true

Re: 508 Letters from Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa

#113 Post by John Cope » Sat Aug 06, 2011 12:47 pm

I agree with Guido. Meant to write about these films at the time I saw them a year or so ago but then, as now, they demand a far longer treatment than I am prepared to give them. Still, I will say that in general I agree that Ossos is the least crucial of the three, though I appreciate the ways in which it exists alongside the others. I had seen that one before, years before, and had been less impressed with it. At that time it just felt like knock off Bresson to me (as did Casa de Lava for that matter) but I'm deeply grateful I took the time to immerse myself in this whole set as it provided the kind of context which was profoundly valuable to an understanding of Costa's work as a whole, its development and significance. Now I am more receptive to what Ossos is doing though I'm still not overly enamored of it.

It is indeed with Vanda and Youth that Costa seems to have come fully into his own. Both are beyond superb in my opinion and what I mean by that hyperbole is that they both do what even most other great films seldom do, establish a new language, an utterly new form while maintaining and clearly having developed upon a history of cinematic contnuity. I adore and admire them both equally. I don't see any meaningful "progression" from one to the next and, once again, by that I mean some ultimate refinement of Costa's technique that would leave the earlier film as mere stepping stone to formal perfection. Youth does refine many things about Costa's work, both aesthetically and in terms of selecting a mode or tone of presentation but that's an important distinction and why it doesn't "improve" on the equally stunning Vanda. Vanda initiates its own new-way-of-seeing and is its own very particular breakthrough. As far as I'm concerned there are a number of specific aspects to that work that Costa clearly chooses not to develop or follow up on in Youth; Youth follows a select, specific path out from Vanda, refining that path and establishing its own unique, foundational character.

BTW, denti, how did your fellow Ranciere readers react to Youth?

User avatar
denti alligator
Posts: 2733
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:36 pm
Location: "born in heaven, raised in hell"

Re: 508 Letters from Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa

#114 Post by denti alligator » Sat Aug 06, 2011 7:57 pm

I think we all agreed that the film sits very, very well. It lingers. In a good way.

The chapter in Ranciere's book also opened up the film vastly. Really fantastic reading, I think. I will return to the film, but first I'll spend some time with the extras and watch Vanda.

User avatar
gcgiles1dollarbin
Posts: 370
Joined: Sun Sep 19, 2010 3:38 am

Re: 508 Letters from Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa

#115 Post by gcgiles1dollarbin » Sat Aug 27, 2011 5:46 am

I was hoping someone would know of an interview in which Costa speaks of the lives of Vanda, Ventura, Nhurro, etc., outside of Costa's films. I was shaken to learn that Vanda's sister Zita died some time between In Vanda's Room and Colossal Youth--she was so beautiful and young in the first film! I suspect she died of a drug overdose, but of course, anything could have happened to her.

I'll never forget the "scene" when Zita is trying to keep her younger developmentally-disabled brother (at least he appears to be disabled, and at least I think he's her brother) from playing with a splintery piece of wood, while the back hoe pounds away at a slum wall somewhere offscreen. I thought to myself, "If Costa ends the film here--what an apocalypse!" But there was a bit more, as I recall.

At any rate, does anyone know her story?

User avatar
hearthesilence
Posts: 4245
Joined: Fri Mar 04, 2005 4:22 am
Location: NYC

Re: 508 Letters from Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa

#116 Post by hearthesilence » Tue Dec 05, 2017 11:52 am

Lincoln Center is screening a 35mm print of Colossal Youth this Sunday at 2:30 pm in the Walter Reade Theater as part of their "Non-Actor" program.

Anyone see this projected in 35mm? I've seen it several times since I own it on a DVD (and even once projected albeit digitally), and I'm wondering if it's worth re-scheduling my weekend just to see it from a film print as it was shot on standard-def video?

Ishmael
Posts: 317
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 2:56 pm

Re: 508 Letters from Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa

#117 Post by Ishmael » Tue Dec 05, 2017 1:19 pm

hearthesilence wrote:Lincoln Center is screening a 35mm print of Colossal Youth this Sunday at 2:30 pm in the Walter Reade Theater as part of their "Non-Actor" program.

Anyone see this projected in 35mm? I've seen it several times since I own it on a DVD (and even once projected albeit digitally), and I'm wondering if it's worth re-scheduling my weekend just to see it from a film print as it was shot on standard-def video?
I saw this projected years ago at the National Gallery in DC. I don't remember whether it was a film print or video, but I do remember it looking quite awful. The Gallery usually knows what they're doing with projection, so my fear is that this is just the way it looks, but I'd be happy to be wrong. Still, if you want advice from some rando on the Internet, I'd say proceed with caution.

User avatar
Ribs
Posts: 2917
Joined: Fri Jun 13, 2014 1:14 pm

Re: 508 Letters from Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa

#118 Post by Ribs » Tue Dec 05, 2017 1:46 pm

I mean, the National Gallery *did* show Carnet de Bal off the Eclipse DVD stretched to 16:9 last year, which has basically totally ruined my opinion of their exhibition. But that’s possibly just me being petty.

User avatar
hearthesilence
Posts: 4245
Joined: Fri Mar 04, 2005 4:22 am
Location: NYC

Re: 508 Letters from Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa

#119 Post by hearthesilence » Tue Dec 05, 2017 2:24 pm

I saw Horse Money projected at the NYFF (again, shot with the same DVX-100!). A handful of shots betrayed their origins, mainly highly visible jagged lines in some daytime exterior shots, but otherwise it looked totally fine. In fact, the dark interior shots were BEAUTIFUL. But that was a DCP, and dumping an SD digital file to 35mm film is a whole other story.

User avatar
The Elegant Dandy Fop
Posts: 1062
Joined: Thu Dec 09, 2004 3:25 am
Location: Los Angeles, CA

Re: 508 Letters from Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa

#120 Post by The Elegant Dandy Fop » Tue Dec 05, 2017 2:53 pm

hearthesilence wrote: But that was a DCP, and dumping an SD digital file to 35mm film is a whole other story.
I think I read in a Pedro Costa interview somewhere that 35mm projection of his film is his favorite way to present it. Not just that, but transferring a digital movie to film seems to help the black levels, which still often seems out-of-wack in digital cinema.

Ishmael
Posts: 317
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 2:56 pm

Re: 508 Letters from Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa

#121 Post by Ishmael » Tue Dec 05, 2017 3:12 pm

Ribs wrote:I mean, the National Gallery *did* show Carnet de Bal off the Eclipse DVD stretched to 16:9 last year, which has basically totally ruined my opinion of their exhibition. But that’s possibly just me being petty.
Hahaha, well... I remember seeing Cocksucker Blues there a couple years ago from a DCP, and that was also stretched to 16:9. After a minute, they turned the film off, and when it came back on it was still stretched. Obviously they figured out the problem, couldn't fix it, and decided to proceed with the screening anyway. A pity, but yeah, nobody's perfect.

User avatar
The Elegant Dandy Fop
Posts: 1062
Joined: Thu Dec 09, 2004 3:25 am
Location: Los Angeles, CA

Re: 508 Letters from Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa

#122 Post by The Elegant Dandy Fop » Tue Dec 05, 2017 3:26 pm

Ishmael wrote:
Ribs wrote:I mean, the National Gallery *did* show Carnet de Bal off the Eclipse DVD stretched to 16:9 last year, which has basically totally ruined my opinion of their exhibition. But that’s possibly just me being petty.
Hahaha, well... I remember seeing Cocksucker Blues there a couple years ago from a DCP, and that was also stretched to 16:9. After a minute, they turned the film off, and when it came back on it was still stretched. Obviously they figured out the problem, couldn't fix it, and decided to proceed with the screening anyway. A pity, but yeah, nobody's perfect.
Sounds like a problem with the media if it was DCP. DCP traditionally comes all at 1.78 aspect ratio with additional features on the projector lens itself to do 'scope. When you get an older film shot on 1.33 or 1.37, it comes pillarboxed with black on the side of the image (just like an older film on Blu-ray), which a good projectionist would hide the light from by masking the image properly.

User avatar
hearthesilence
Posts: 4245
Joined: Fri Mar 04, 2005 4:22 am
Location: NYC

Re: 508 Letters from Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa

#123 Post by hearthesilence » Tue Dec 05, 2017 6:15 pm

I went to Criterion's page for Colossal Youth and found out that the clip embedded there is actually digitally transferred from an Asian theatrical trailer that is a film transfer of the digital video source (complete with film scratches and actual burned-in English subtitles on the film print itself).

PQ is heavily degraded from the original source, but the transfer to film does make it look like a 16mm print of a much older vintage.

(Also noticed that you can download the embedded clip from Criterion's page too - not sure if this was always the case for all embedded clips on their pages, but it's nice to have that option.)

Robespierre
Posts: 74
Joined: Mon Apr 17, 2017 5:31 pm

Re: 508 Letters from Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa

#124 Post by Robespierre » Wed Jan 31, 2018 1:35 am

I was really impressed with In Vanda's Room. The way Costa uses darkness and static long takes to show that these character are literally lost in darkness is quite fitting. I also loved the central metaphor of these addicts doing nothing but chasing their fix as their world is literally demolished around them. I really like slow arty movies but these one had the visceral visual style to back up what Costa was trying to say; these addicts live in total darkness and blame other people for their problems.

User avatar
soundchaser
Posts: 133
Joined: Sun Aug 28, 2016 12:32 am

Re: 508 Letters from Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa

#125 Post by soundchaser » Wed Jan 31, 2018 1:59 am

Robespierre wrote:I was really impressed with In Vanda's Room. The way Costa uses darkness and static long takes to show that these character are literally lost in darkness is quite fitting. I also loved the central metaphor of these addicts doing nothing but chasing their fix as their world is literally demolished around them. I really like slow arty movies but these one had the visceral visual style to back up what Costa was trying to say; these addicts live in total darkness and blame other people for their problems.
Interesting perspective...I'm not totally sure that's the ultimate message Costa's getting at here. It makes more sense, I think, to take your point about literal darkness and read it as a systemic problem - these spaces themselves are so dark that there's little to grab on to, and what's there is being destroyed. If you're being *forgotten* in the darkness, why not spend your time chatting and getting your fix? What else is there to do? Nobody except Costa seems to even care that these poor people exist.

Post Reply