Pedro Costa Casa de Lava 1994 © Pedro Costa

Pedro Costa

Pedro Costa No Quarto da Vanda 2000 © Pedro Costa

Jean Eustache Le Cochon 1970 © The Artist

Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillxet Itinéraire de Jean Bricard 2008 © The Artists

Pedro Costa Ossos 1997 © Pedro Costa Pedro Costa Casa de Lava 1994 © Pedro Costa

DW Griffith The Struggle 1931 Courtesy BFI Stills

Pedro Costa O Sangue 1989 © Pedro Costa

Pedro Costa Tarrafal 2007 © Pedro Costa

Pedro Costa Où Gît Votre Sourire Enfoui? 2001 © Pedro Costa

Pedro Costa Ne Change Rien 2009 © Pedro Costa

Pedro Costa Casa de Lava 1994 © Pedro Costa

Pedro Costa Juventude em Marcha 2006 © Pedro Costa

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Pedro Costa Tate Modern, Starr Auditorium 25 September – 4 October 2009 Acclaimed Portugese filmmaker Pedro Costa’s work is marked by extraordinary intimacy and trancelike stillness. His films present the lives of Lisbon’s disenfranchised migrants with unflinching honesty and dignity. This first UK retrospective of Costa’s risk-taking, beautiful work includes his new film, Ne Change Rien, as well as four programmes of films that have inspired him, including work by Jean Eustache, Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Pierre Gorin, JeanMarie Straub & Danièle Huillet, and Andy Warhol. With support from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, UK Branch, and Centre for Iberian and Latin American Visual Studies (CILAVS), Birkbeck, University of London. £5 (£4 concessions) Season ticket £40 (£30 concessions) The Politics of Pedro Costa Jacques Rancière How are we to think the politics of Pedro Costa’s films? The answer appears simple at first. His films are about a situation seemingly at the heart of the political issues of today: the fate of the exploited, of people who have come from afar, from former colonies in Africa, to work on Portuguese construction sites; people who have lost their families, their health, sometimes even their lives, on those sites, and who yesterday were dumped in suburban slums and subsequently moved to new homes—better lit, more modern, not necessarily more livable. A number of other sensitive themes are joined to this fundamental situation. In Casa de Lava, for example, there is the repression of the Salazar government, which sends its opponents off to camps situated on the very spot from where African immigrants leave in search of work in the city. And, starting with Ossos, there is the life of young people from Lisbon who, due to drugs and deteriorating social conditions, have found themselves in the same slums and under the same living conditions. Still, neither a social situation nor a visible display of sympathy for the exploited and the neglected are enough to make art political. We usually expect there to be a mode of representation

which renders the situation of exploitation intelligible as the effect of specific causes and, further, which shows that situation to be the source of the forms of consciousness and affects that modify it. We want the formal operations to be organized around the goal of shedding light on the causes and the chain of effects. Here, though, is where things become difficult. Pedro Costa’s camera never once takes the usual path from the places of misery to the places where those in power produce or manage it. We don’t see in his films the economic power which exploits and relegates, or the power of administrations and the police, which represses or displaces populations. We never hear any of his characters speaking about the political stakes of the situation, or of rebelling against it. Filmmakers before Pedro Costa, like Francesco Rosi, show the machinery that regulates and displaces the poor. Others, like Jean-Marie Straub, take the opposite approach. They distance their cameras from ‘the misery of the world’ in order to show, in an open-air amphitheatre designed to evoke ancient grandeur and modern struggles for liberation, the men and women of the people who confront history and proudly proclaim the project of a just world. We don’t see any of this in Pedro Costa. He does not inscribe the slums into the landscape of capitalism in mutation, nor does he design his sets to make them commensurate with collective grandeur. Some might say that this is not a deliberate choice, but simply the reality of a social mutation: the immigrants from Cape Verde, the poor whites, and the marginalized youth of his films bear no resemblance at all to the proletariat, exploited and militant, which was Rosi’s horizon yesterday, and remains Straub’s today. Their mode of life is not that of the exploited, but that of a marginalized group left to fend for itself. The police is absent from their universe, as are people fighting in the name of social justice. The only people from the city center who ever come to visit them are nurses, who lose themselves in these outskirts more from an intimate crack than from the need to bring relief to suffering populations. The inhabitants of Fontainhas live their lot in the way that was so stigmatized during the time of Brecht: as their destiny. If they discuss it at all, it is to wonder whether heaven, their own choice, or their weakness is responsible for their lot. What are we to think of the way Pedro Costa places his camera in these spaces? It’s common

to warn people who have chosen to talk about misery to remember that misery is not an object for art. Pedro Costa, however, seems to do the very opposite. He never misses an opportunity to transform the living spaces of these miserable people into objects of art. A plastic water bottle, a knife, a glass, a few objects left on a deal table in a squatted apartment: there you have, under a light that strokes the set, the occasion for a beautiful still life. As night descends on this space without electricity, two small candles placed on the same table lend to the miserable conversations or to the needle sessions the allure of a chiaroscuro from the Dutch Golden Age. The motion of excavators is a chance to show, along with the crumbling buildings, sculptural bases made of concrete and large walls with contrasting colors—blue, pink, yellow, or green. The room where Vanda coughs so hard as to tear apart her chest delights us with its aquarium green walls, against which we see the flight of mosquitoes and gnats. The accusation of aestheticism can be met by saying that Pedro Costa has filmed the places just as they are. The homes of the poor are on the whole gaudier than the homes of the rich, their raw colors more pleasant to the eye of the art lover than the standardised aestheticism of petit bourgeois home decorations. In Rilke’s day already, exiled poets saw gutted buildings simultaneously as fantastic sets and as the stratigraphy of a way of living. But the fact that Pedro Costa has filmed these places ‘as they are’ means something else, something that touches on the politics of art. After Ossos, he stopped designing sets to tell stories. That is to say, he gave up exploiting misery as an object of fiction. He placed himself in these spaces to observe their inhabitants living their lives, to hear what they say, capture their secret. The virtuosity with which the camera plays with colors and lights, and the machine which gives the actions and words of the inhabitants the time to be acted out, are one and the same. But if this answer absolves the director of the sin of aestheticism, it immediately raises another suspicion, another accusation: what politics is this, which makes it its task to record, for months and months, the gestures and words which reflect the misery of that world? This is an accusation which confines the conversations in Vanda’s room and Ventura’s drifting to a simple dilemma: either an indiscreet aestheticism indifferent to the situation of the

individuals involved, or a populism that gets trapped by that same situation. This, though, is to inscribe the work of the director in a very petty topography of high and low, near and far, inside and outside. It is to situate his way of working in an all too simple play of oppositions between the wealth of colors and the misery of the individuals, between activity and passivity, between what is given and what is seized. Pedro Costa’s method explodes precisely this system of oppositions and this topography. It favors instead a more complex poetics of exchanges, correspondences, and displacements. To see it at work, it might be good to pause a second over an episode from Colossal Youth that can, in a few ‘tableaux,’ sum up the aesthetics of Pedro Costa, and the politics of that aesthetics. The episode places us, first, in the ‘normal’ setting of Ventura’s existence: that of an immigrant worker who shares a run-down place with a fellow Cape Verdean. As it starts, we hear Ventura’s voice reciting a love letter while the camera-eye frames a grey corner of the wall which is pierced by the white rectangle of a window; the four glass bottles on the window sill compose another still life. Urged by the voice of his friend Lento, Ventura’s reading slowly fades out. The next shot introduces a quite brutal change of setting: the still life that served as the set for Ventura’s reading is succeeded by yet another colored rectangle taken from a still darker section of wall: a painting whose frame seems to pierce with its own light the surrounding darkness which threatens to encroach on its edges. Colors quite similar to the colors of the bottles outline arabesques in which we can recognize the Sacred Family fleeing to Egypt with a sizeable cohort of angels. The sound of footsteps announce the character who appears in the next shot: Ventura, who is leaning with his back against the wall, flanked by a portrait of Hélène Fourment by Rubens, the painter of the Flight to Egypt of the previous shot, and by Van Dyck’s Portrait of a Man. These three well-known works are specifically situated: we are seeing the walls of the Gulbenkian Foundation, a building that is obviously not in Ventura’s neighborhood. Nothing in the preceding shot announced this visit, and there is nothing in the film to suggest that Ventura has a taste for painting. The director has brutally transported Ventura to this museum, which we suppose by the echoing footsteps and the night light to be empty of visitors, closed off for the shooting of this scene.

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The relationship between the three paintings and the filmic ‘still life’ that immediately precedes them, together with that between the decaying home and the museum, and perhaps even that between the love letter and the paintings on the walls, composes a very specific poetic displacement, a metaphor that speaks in the film about the art of the filmmaker: of its relationship to the art in museums, and of the relationship that one art and the other forges with the body of its characters. A metaphor which speaks, in short, about their politics. The politics here might seem quite easy to grasp at first. A silent shot shows us a museum guard who is himself black walk up to Ventura and whisper something in his ear. As Ventura walks out of the room, the guard pulls a handkerchief from his pocket and wipes clean the traces of Ventura’s feet. We understand: Ventura is an intruder. The guard tells him later: this museum, he says, is a refuge, far from the din of poor neighborhoods and from the supermarkets whose merchandise he used to have to protect from widespread shoplifting. Here, though, is an old and peaceful world that is disturbed only by the chance visit of someone from their world. Ventura himself had already manifested that, both with his attitude—he offered no resistance to being escorted out of the gallery, and eventually out of the museum through the service stairs—and with his gaze, which scrutinized some enigmatic point situated, it seemed, well above the paintings. The politics of the episode would be to remind us that the pleasures of art are not for the proletariat and, more precisely still, that museums are closed off to the workers who build them. This becomes explicit in the gardens of the Foundation, in the conversation between Ventura and the museum employee during which we learn why Ventura fits into this displaced setting. There used to be nothing here at all but a marsh, bushes and frogs. It was Ventura, together with other workers, who cleaned up the area, laid down the terrace, built the plumbing system, carried the construction materials, erected the statue of the place’s founder, and planted the grass at its feet. It was here, too, that he fell from the scaffolding. The episode, in sum, would be an illustration of the poem in which Brecht asks who built Thebes, with its seven gates and other architectural splendors. Ventura would represent all those people who have constructed buildings, at great danger to their health and lives, which they themselves have

no right to enjoy. But this simple lesson does not justify the museum being deserted, empty even of those people who do benefit from the work of the Venturas of this world. It does not justify the fact that the scenes shot inside the museum should be so silent; or that the camera should linger on the concrete steps of the service stairs down which the guard escorts Ventura; or that the silence inside the museum should be followed by a long panoramic shot, punctuated by bird cries, of the surrounding trees; or that Ventura should tell his story, from the exact day of his arrival in Portugal, on 29 August 1972; or that the scene should brutally end with him indicating the spot where he fell. Ventura here is something completely different from the immigrant worker who represents the condition of immigrant workers. The greenery of the scene, the way Ventura towers over the guard, the solemn tone of his voice as he seems to recite a text that inhabits him—all of this is very far from every narrative of misery. Ventura in this scene is a chronicler of his own life, an actor who renders visible the singular grandeur of that life, the grandeur of a collective adventure for which the museum seems incapable of supplying an equivalent. The relationship of Pedro Costa’s art to the art displayed on the walls of the museum exceeds the simple demonstration of the exploitation of workers for the sake of the pleasures of the aesthete, much as Ventura’s figure exceeds that of the worker robbed of the fruit of his labor. If we hope to understand this scene, we have to tie the relationships of reciprocity and nonreciprocity into a much more complex knot. To begin with, the museum is not the place of artistic wealth opposed to the penury of the worker. The colored arabesques of the Flight to Egypt show no straightforward superiority over the shot of the window with four bottles in the poor lodgings of the two workers. The painting’s golden frame strikes us as a stingier delimitation of space than the window of the house, as a way of canceling out everything that surrounds it and of rendering uninteresting all that is outside of it—the vibrations of light in the space, the contrasting colors of the walls, the sounds from outside. The museum is a place where art is locked up within this frame that yields neither transparency nor reciprocity. It is the space of a stingy art. If the museum excludes the worker who built it, it is because it excludes all that lives from displacements and exchanges: light, forms, and colors in their movement, the sound of the

world, and also the workers who’ve come from the islands of Cape Verde. That might be why Ventura’s gaze loses itself somewhere in the ceiling. We might think he is envisioning the scaffolding he fell from. But we might also think of another lost gaze fixed on an angle of another ceiling, the ceiling in the new apartment he is shown by a fellow from Cape Verde who in many ways resembles the museum employee. He is, in any case, just as convinced that Ventura is not in his element in this apartment, which Ventura had requested for his fictive family, and also just as eager to wipe clean the traces of Ventura’s intrusion on this sterile place. In answer to the spiel about the sociocultural advantages of the neighborhood, Ventura had majestically extended his arms towards the ceiling and uttered a lapidary sentence: ‘It’s full of spider webs.’ The social-housing employee cannot verify the presence of these spider webs on the ceiling anymore than we can. It could be Ventura who has, as the saying goes, ‘spider webs in the attic.’ And anyway, even if insects do crawl up and down the walls of this housing project, they are nothing when compared to the decaying walls of his friend Lento’s or of Bete’s place, where ‘father’ and ‘daughter’ amuse themselves seeing, as good disciples of Leonardo da Vinci, the formation of all sorts of fantastic figures. The problem with the white walls that welcome the worker to the housing project is the same as the problem of the dark walls of the museum which reject him: they keep at bay the chance figures in which the imagination of the worker who crossed the seas, chased frogs from the city center, and slipped and fell from the scaffolding can be on a par with that of the artist. The art on the walls of the museum is not simply a sign of the ingratitude towards the person who built the museum. It is as stingy towards the sensible wealth of his experience as to the light that shines on even the most miserable homes. We’ve already heard this in Ventura’s narrative about his departure from Cape Verde on 29 August 1972, his arrival in Portugal, the transformation of a swamp into an art foundation, and the fall. By placing Ventura in such a setting, Pedro Costa has given him a Straub-like tone, the epic tone of the discoverers of a new world. The problem is not really to open the museum to the workers who built it, but to make an art commensurate with the experience of these travelers, an art that has emerged from them, and which they themselves can enjoy. That is what we learn from the episode which follows Ventura’s brutal fall. It is an episode

constructed around a double return: the return to Ventura’s reading of the letter, and a flashback to the accident. We see Ventura, his head now in a bandage, returning to a wooden shack with a dilapidated roof. He sits hunched over at a table, imperiously insists that Lento come play cards, and continues reading the love letter he wants to teach to Lento, who can’t read. This letter, which is recited many times, is like a refrain for the film. It talks about a separation and about working on construction sites far from one’s beloved. It also speaks about the soon-to-be reunion which will grace two lives for twenty or thirty years, about the dream of offering the beloved a hundred thousand cigarettes, clothes, a car, a little house made of lava, and a three-penny bouquet; it talks about the effort to learn a new word every day— words whose beauty is tailor-made to envelope these two beings like a pajamas of fine silk. This letter is written for one person only, for Ventura has no one to send it to. It is, strictly speaking, its own artistic performance, the performance Ventura wants to share [partager] with Lento, because it is the performance of an art of sharing [partage], of an art that does not split itself off from life, from the experience of displaced people or their means of mitigating absence and of coming closer to their loved one. The letter, however, and by the same token, belongs neither to the film nor to Ventura: it comes from elsewhere. Albeit more discreetly, it already scanned the ‘fictional’ film of which Colossal Youth is the echo and the reverse: Casa de Lava, the story of a nurse who goes to Cape Verde in the company of Leão, a worker who, like Ventura, has also injured his head, but on a different construction site. The letter first appeared in the papers of Edith, an exile from the big city who went to Cape Verde to be near her lover, sent by Salazar’s regime to the Tarrafal concentration camp. She stayed there after his death and was adopted, in her confusion, by the black community, which lived off of her pension, and thanked her with serenades. It had seemed, then, that the love letter had been written by the sentenced man. But at the hospital, at Leão’s bedside, Mariana gave the letter to Tina, Leão’s younger sister, to read, as it was written in Creole. Tina appropriates the letter, which becomes for the viewer not a letter sent from the death camp by the deported man, but by Leão from a construction site in Portugal. But when Mariana asks Leão about it, as he finally emerges from his coma, his answer is peremptory: how could he have written the love

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letter, if he doesn’t know how to write? All of a sudden, the letter seems not to have been written by, or addressed to, anyone in particular. It now seems like a letter written by a public scribe adept at putting into form the feelings of love, as well as the administrative requests, of the illiterate. Its message of love loses itself in the grand, impersonal transaction which links Edith to the dead militant, to the wounded black worker, to the kitchen of the erstwhile camp cook, and to the music of Leão’s father and brother, whose bread and music Mariana has shared, but who would not go visit Leão at the hospital. They continued, nevertheless, working on refurbishing his house, the house which he would not enter but on two legs, all the while making arrangements so that they, too, could go and work on construction sites in Portugal. The letter that Pedro Costa gives Ventura to read belongs to this wide circulation: between here and elsewhere, committed city folk and exiled workers, the literate and the illiterate, the wise and the confused. But in extending its addressees, the letter doubles back to its origin and another circulation is grafted onto the trajectory of the immigrants. Pedro Costa wrote the letter by mixing two sources: a letter by an immigrant worker, and a letter written by a ‘true’ author, Robert Desnos, who wrote his letter sixty years earlier from camp Flöha in Saxony, a way-stop on the road to Terezin, and death. This means that Leão’s fictional destiny and Ventura’s real one are brought together in a circuit which links the ordinary exile of workers to the death camps. It also means that the art of the poor, of the public scribe, and of great poets are captured together in the same fabric: an art of life and of sharing [partage], an art of travel and of communication made for those for whom to live is to travel—to sell their work force to build houses and museums for other people, in the process bring with them their experience, their music, their way of living and loving, of reading on walls and of listening to the song of humans and birds. There is no aestheticizing formalism or populist deference in the attention Pedro Costa pays to every beautiful form offered by the homes of the poor, and the patience with which he listens to the oftentimes trivial and repetitive words uttered in Vanda’s room, and in the new apartment where we see Vanda after she has kicked her habit, put on some weight, and become a mother. The attention and the patience are inscribed, instead, in a

different politics of art. This politics is a stranger to that politics which works by bringing to the screen the state of the world to make viewers aware of the structures of domination in place and inspire them to mobilize their energies. It finds its models in the love letter by Ventura/Desnos and in the music of Leão’s family, for their art is one in which the form is not split off from the construction of a social relation or from the realization of a capacity that belongs to everyone. We shouldn’t confuse this with that old dream of the avant-garde in which artistic forms would be dissolved in the relations of the new world. The politics here, rather, is about thinking the proximity between art and all those other forms which can convey the affirmation of a sharing [partage] or shareable [partageable] capacity. The stress on the greens of Vanda’s room cannot be separated from the attempts—by Vanda, Zita, Pedro or Nurro—to examine their lives and take control of it. The luminous still life composed with a plastic bottle and a few found objects on the white wooden table of a squat is in harmony with the stubbornness with which the redhead uses his knife to clean, the protests of his friends notwithstanding, the stain from the table destined for the teeth of the excavator. Pedro Costa does not film the ‘misery of the world.’ He films its wealth, the wealth that anyone at all can become master of: that of catching the splendor of a reflection of light, but also that of being able to speak in a way that is commensurate with one’s fate. And, lastly, the politics here is about being able to return what can be extracted of sensible wealth—the power of speech, or of vision—from the life and decorations of these precarious existences back to them, about making it available to them, like a song they can enjoy, like a love letter whose words and sentences they can borrow for their own love lives. Isn’t that, after all, what we can expect from the cinema, the popular art of the twentieth century, the art that allowed the greatest number of people—people who would not walk into a museum—to be thrilled by the splendor of the effect of a ray of light shining on an ordinary setting, by the poetry of clinking glasses or of a conversation on the counter of any old diner? Confronted with people who align him with great ‘formalists’ like Bresson, Dreyer or Tarkovsky, Pedro Costa sometimes claims a whole different lineage: Walsh and Tourneur, as well as more modest and anonymous directors of B films who crafted wellformatted stories on a tight budget for the profit of Hollywood studios, and who didn’t for all that fail

to get the audiences of neighborhood cinemas to enjoy the equal splendor of a mountain, a horse, or a rocking chair—equal because of the absence of any hierarchy of visual values between people, landscape, or objects1. At the heart of a system of production entirely subservient to the profit of its studio heads, cinema showed itself to be an art of equality. The problem, as we unfortunately know, is that capitalism is not what it used to be, and if Hollywood is still thriving, neighborhood cinemas are not, having been replaced by multiplexes that give each sociologically-determined audience a type of art designed and formatted to suit it. Pedro Costa’s films, like every work that eludes this formatting process, are immediately labeled as film-festival material, something reserved for the exclusive enjoyment of a film-buff elite and tendentiously pushed to the province of museums and art lovers. For that, of course, Pedro Costa blames the state of the world, meaning the naked domination of the power of money, which classes as ‘films for film-buffs’ the work of directors who try to bring to everyone the wealth of sensorial experience found in the humblest of lives. The system makes a sad monk of the director who wants to make his cinema shareable [partageable] like the music of the violin player from Cape Verde and like the letter written jointly by the poet and the illiterate worker. It is true that today, the domination by the wealthy tends to constitute a world in which equality must disappear even from the organization of the sensible landscape. All the wealth in this landscape has to appear as separated, as attributed to, and privately enjoyed by, one category of owners. The system gives the humble the pocket change of its wealth, of its world, which it formats for them, but which is separated from the sensorial wealth of their own experience. This is the television in Vanda’s room. Still, this particular deal of the cards is not the only reason behind the break in reciprocity and the separation between the film and its world. The experience of the poor is not just that of displacements and exchanges, of borrowing, stealing, and giving back. It is also the experience of the crack which interrupts the fairness of exchanges and the circulation of experiences. In Casa de Lava, it is difficult to tell if Leão’s silence as he lies on the hospital bed is the manifestation of a traumatic coma or the desire not to return to the common world. So, too, with Edith’s ‘madness,’ her ‘forgetfulness’ of the Portuguese language and her confinement

to booze and Creole. The death of the militant in the camp of the Salazar regime and the wound of the immigrant who works on construction sites in Portugal establish—at the heart of the circulation of bodies, medical care, words, and music—the dimension of that which cannot be exchanged, of the irreparable. In Ossos, there is Tina’s silence, her loss as to what to do with the child in her arms other than take the child with her to their deaths. Colossal Youth is split between two logics, two regimes of the exchange of words and experiences. On one side, the camera is placed in Vanda’s new room, which is sterile white and filled by a doublebed of the type one finds at discount stores. There, a mellower and plumper Vanda talks about her new life, about her detox, the child, the deserving husband, about her treatment and health issues. On the other, the camera follows the often silent Ventura, who now and then utters an imperious command or lapidary sentence, and who sometimes loses himself in his narrative or in the reciting of his letter. It portrays him as a strange animal, too large or too shy for the set, whose eyes sometimes shine like those of a wild animal, and whose head is more often bent down than held up: the distracted gaze of a sick man. The point with Ventura is not to gather the evidence of a hard life, even if it is in order to figure out who cinema can share [partager] this life with, and to whom it can give it back as his or her life. The point is rather to confront what cannot be shared [l’impartageable], the cracks that have separated a person from himself. Ventura is not an ‘immigrant worker,’ a poor man entitled to be treated with dignity and to share in the pleasures afforded by the world he has helped build. He is a sort of sublime drifter, a character from tragedy, someone who interrupts communication and exchange on his own. There seems to be a divorce between two regimes of expression in the passage from the dilapidated walls, the colorful sets, and the loud colors of the slums to the new furniture and the white walls which no longer echo the words of those in the room. Even if Vanda is willing to play the role of one of Ventura’s ‘daughters,’ even if Ventura sits at her table and chats in her room, and occasionally even does some baby-sitting, the crack in Ventura casts the shadow of this enormous and broken body, this enormous body which has been displaced into the story of Vanda’s new life, on her narrative at the same time that it lends vanity to it. We can describe this intimate divorce using terms taken from on old quarrel, one summed up more than

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two centuries ago by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the Preface to The New Heloise. These family letters, are they real or fictive, the objector asks the man of letters. If they are real, then they are portraits, and we expect portraits to be faithful to the model. This makes them not very interesting to people who are not members of the family. ‘Imaginary paintings,’ on the other hand, interest the public, provided they resemble, not a particular individual, but the human being. Pedro Costa says things differently: the patience of the camera, which every day mechanically films the words, gestures, and footsteps of the characters—not in order to make films, but as an exercise in approximating the secret of the other—must bring a third character to life on the screen. A character who is not the director, nor Vanda, nor Ventura, a character who is, and is not, a stranger to our lives2. But the emergence of this impersonal also gets caught up in the disjunction in its turn: it is hard for this third character to avoid becoming either Vanda’s portrait, and as such enclosed in the family of social identifications, or Ventura’s painting, the painting of the crack and the enigma which renders family portraits and narratives futile. A native of the island says as much to Mariana, the well-intentioned nurse: your skull is not fractured. The crack splits experience into those that can be shared [partageable], and those which cannot [impartageable]. The screen where the third character should appear is stretched between these two experiences, between two risks: the risk of platitude, in the life narratives, and of infinite flight, in the confrontation with the crack. Cinema cannot be the equivalent of the love letter or of the music of the poor. It can no longer be the art which gives the poor the sensible wealth of their world. It must split itself off, it must agree to be the surface upon which the experience of people relegated to the margins of economic circulations and social trajectories try to be ciphered in new figures. This new surface must be hospitable to the division which separates portrait and painting, chronicle and tragedy, reciprocity and rift. An art must be made in the place of another. Pedro Costa’s greatness is that he simultaneously accepts and rejects this alteration, that his cinema is simultaneously a cinema of the possible and of the impossible.
1 See Pedro Costa and Rui Chaves, Fora! Out! (Porto: Fundação de Serralves, 2007) 119. 2 Fora! Out!, p.115.

O SANGUE / Blood Portugal 1989, 35mm, 1:1,33, b/w, 95 min Direction and screenplay: Pedro Costa, Cinematography: Martin Schäfer, Sound: Pedro Caldas, Gérard Rousseau, Editing: Manuela Viegas, Producer: Victor Gonçalves, Produced by Trópico Filmes with: Pedro Hestnes, Nuno Ferreira, Inês Medeiros, Luis Miguel Cintra, Canto e Castro, Isabel de Castro, Ana Otero, Manuel João Vieira, Miguel Fernandes, Henrique Viana, Luís Santos, José Eduardo, Pedro Miguel Two brothers, 17 year-old Vicente and 10 year-old Nino. A tiny village on the bank of the Tagus river. Between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The boys are united by a secret closely related to their father’s absence: he vanished because he got sick or maybe because he was involved in some type of suspicious activity. This time he seems to have disappeared for good. What has happened? The elder brother and a very young girl are the only ones to know the secret. There were once two teenagers and a child. If we look back to the classical American cinema we find that same secret alliance that existed among Nicholas Ray’s rebels. But these teenagers are not really rebels, and they don’t get mixed in that insolvable night in the graveyard, when they get hold of the unshared secret of the child. Their division lies in that separation, in that journey that will isolate them, without any roots, and that will make them as lost in space as they were from their own time. João Bénard da Costa, O preto é uma cor, ou o cinema de Pedro Costa ‘Blood’ is a special first feature – the first features of not-yet auteurs themselves forming a particular cinematic genre, especially in retrospect. Perhaps it was from Huillet and Straub’s ‘Class Relations’ that Costa learnt the priceless lesson of screen fiction, worthy of Sam Fuller: start the piece instantly, with a gaze, a gesture, a movement, some ‘displacement’ of air and energy, something dropped like a heavy stone to shatter the calm of pre-fiction equilibrium. To set the motor of the intrigue going – even if that intrigue will be so shadowy, so shrouded in questions that go to the very

heart of its status as a depiction of the real. So ‘Blood’ begins sharply, after the sound (under the black screen) of a car stopping, a door slamming, footsteps: a young man has his face slapped. Cut (in a stark reverse-field, down an endless road in the wilderness) to an older man, the father. Then back to the young man: ‘Do what you want with me.’ The father picks up his suitcase (insert shot) and begins to walk off … The beginning of ‘Colossal Youth’ also announces, in just this way, its immortal story: bags thrown out a window, a perfect image (reminiscent, on a Surrealist plane, of the suitcases thrown into rooms through absent windows, the sign of a ceaseless moving on and moving in, in Ruiz’s ‘City of Pirates’) of dispossession, of beings restlessly on the move from the moment they begin to exist in the image. (…) Costa uses fiction, gives it a body, but simultaneously abstracts, hollows out that body into something ghostly and incorporeal: it is a vibrant paradox, and a rare combination in cinema. What this means is that Costa achieves ‘moments’ which are pure cinema, pure fiction, pure intrigue, while at the same time conserving their mystery, their ‘secret side’ (‘don’t go showing every side of a thing’, cautioned Bresson, advice which Godard quotes). Adrian Martin, The Inner Life of a Film Pedro Costa’s BLOOD (O Sangue) is available NOW on Second Run DVD www.secondrundvd.com CASA DE LAVA Portugal / France 1994, 35mm, 1:1,66, colour, 110 min Direction and screenplay: Pedro Costa, Cinematography: Emmanuel Machuel, Sound: Henri Maikoff, Editing: Dominique Auvray, Producer: Paulo Branco, Produced by Madragoa Filmes in co-production with Pandora Film and Gemini Films with: Inês Medeiros, Isaach de Bankolé, Edith Scob, Pedro Hestnes, Sanda do Canto Brandão, Cristiano Andrade Alves, Raul Andrade, João Medina, António Andrade, Manuel Andrade Leão, a Cape Verdean immigrant and a bricklayer in Lisbon, falls off the scaffolding and enters a deep coma. Arrangements are made for him to return to his homeland, in Cape Verde. A nurse, Mariana, eager for a

change of scenery, volunteers to accompany him. When she arrives, nothing is like she expected. No one seems to be waiting for Leão or even to care for him. Mariana waits for someone to claim Leão and waits for him to wake up. She gets increasingly involved with the mysterious Fogo volcano community; the adventure begins… I have dreamed so much of you, Walked so often, talked so often with you, Loved your shadow so much. Nothing is left me of you. Nothing is left of me but a shadow among shadows, A being a hundred timwes more shadowy than a shadow, A shadowy being who comes, and comes again, in your sunlit life. Robert Desnos, Last Poem (Terezina Concentration Camp, May 1945) ‘Casa de Lava’ starts several times. The opening shots of a volcanic eruption – borrowed from a film called A ‘Erupção do Vulcão da Ilha do Fogo’, provided to Costa by the geographer Orlando Ribeiro - impose a sense of the pre-human, a pure inhospitability. The next sequence is a series of close shots of women standing in a rocky landscape. The women are looking at something; or, rather, since Costa never establishes that these women are in the same place facing in the same direction, let’s say they are looking at various somethings: orientation without orientation. Some of these women will be (and maybe are not yet) characters in the film – in the same way that the people in ‘In Vanda’s Room’ and ‘Colossal Youth’ are characters in those films: quasi-real, quasi-fictional, not firmly located on either side of the nonexistent border. (…) The characters are all exiles; any position they take is provisional. (‘Not even the dead are at peace here.’ Chris Fujiwara, The Mystery of Origins Costa’s people are often disembodied, zombies, never quite here. Jacques Tourneur, not Straub. Does Costa instruct his actors not to think, meditate, or be one in their body? Vermeer’s and the Straubs’ people dominate their space; Costa’s are visitors. They are shapes, figures in incredibly beautiful compositions. ‘Casa de Lava’ is a suite of wonderful plays on depth-

© Jacques Rancière

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of-field and foreground, with a flirtation ballet by lovers with their backs turned – figures, even when there are faces. Tag Gallagher, Straub Anti-Straub OSSOS / Bones Portugal / France / Germany 1997, 35mm, 1:1,66, colour, 94 min Direction and screenplay: Pedro Costa, Cinematography: Emmanuel Machuel, Editing: Jackie Bastide, Sound: Henri Maikoff, Gérard Rousseau, Producer: Paulo Branco, Produced by Madragoa Filmes in coproduction with Zentopa and Gemini Films with: Vanda Duarte, Nuno Vaz, Maria Lipkina, Isabel Ruth, Inês Medeiros, Miguel Sermão, Berta Susana Teixeira, Clotilde Montrond, Zita Duarte, Beatriz Lopes, Luísa Carvalho Ossos is Costa’s first film encounter with the migrant Cape Verdean community of Lisbon, living in Estrela D’África, a shantytown in the outskirts of the city. It is a film of portraits and a film of place, a study of characters and their gestures, deeply involved with their lives and the spaces they inhabit and where they move. At the heart of the film, a newborn baby, his young parents, the people they cross in their actions, when moving out of despair, out of love, for nothing at all. As in his first film, Blood, this is a stark, severe look at the city and the way it shapes and differentiates the lives of those living in its margins. It develops the filmmaker’s penchant for elliptical narrative structures, his careful attention to time and detail, his work with closed and cloistered spaces and his intimate form of portraiture, which would be essential in the films to come. Costa’s blocky compositions and elliptic editing, which sometimes leaves one scrambling across chasms of excised incident and ambiguous relationships, suggest severity, as does his partiality for Bressonian effects—tight shots of hands, locks, and doorways, the camera sometimes holding for a beat or two after a figure has departed the frame, offscreen sound indicating contiguous space. But ‘Ossos’ is more sensual than ascetic, more doleful than denying. The soulful close-ups

Costa accords his abject characters verge on the beatific—the soft, long-haired father with his faraway gaze evokes one of Bellini’s musing Madonnas—and the exquisite lighting turns two symmetrical shots of a photograph, some keys, and crumpled cigarette packs lying on a red dresser into colorist still lives. Costa is also not beyond bravura: He takes obvious pleasure in a long, tricky tracking shot of the father striding down the street, and twice uses extreme shallow focus to flaunty effect. His raw verism sometimes lapses into strainmaking coincidence to establish connections between characters, and he has not yet totally surrendered the use of professional actors (Inês Medeiros as the prostitute, for instance). In ‘Ossos’, then, Costa still holds close his passport for what Godard called ‘this beautiful land of narrative. James Quandt, Still Lives: The Films of Pedro Costa ‘Ossos’ comes from very familiar things, things you can easily recall. It comes from Chaplin, from the melodramas of the beginning of the cinema, a boy with a baby in the streets, speeding dangerous cars, a loaf of bread, a prostitute, two or three kitchens. And a strong desire to be close to reality, to documentary, to be close to these people who are not actors, people that are very similar to the ones they’re depicting. The boy was a poor junky in real life and the housekeeper is a housekeeper. But even if there’s a desire to make a sort of documentary, it’s nevertheless fiction that carries the film on, saving it. Fiction is always a door that we want to open or close. A door that keeps us guessing. Pedro Costa NO QUARTO DA VANDA / In Vanda’s Room Portugal / Germany / Switzerland 2000, 35mm, 1:1,33, 178 min Direction and cinematography: Pedro Costa, Sound: Phillipe Morel, Matthieu Imbert, Editing: Dominique Auvray, Producer: Francisco Villa-Lobos, Produced by: Contracosta Produções in co-production with Pandora Film, Ventura Film, ZDF Das Kleine Fernsehspiel, RTSI Radiotelevisione Svizzera Italiana and Radiotelevisão Portuguesa (RTP) Producer: Francisco Villa-Lobos, Produced by: Contracosta Produções in co-production with

Pandora Film, Ventura Film, ZDF Das Kleine Fernsehspiel, RTSI Radiotelevisione Svizzera Italiana and Radiotelevisão Portuguesa (RTP) with: Vanda Duarte, Zita Duarte, Lena Duarte, António Semedo Moreno, Paulo Nunes, Pedro Lanban, Geny, Paulo Jorge Gonçalves, Evangelina Nelas, Miquelina Barros, Fernando Paixão, Julião, Mosca, Manuel Gomes Miranda, Diogo Pires Miranda In 1997, Pedro Costa directed the feature film Ossos about the fate of one family. Later he returned to the film’s location, an immigrant district of Lisbon, to make this sequel-of-sorts. He follows Vanda Duarte over the course of one year. We see a tiny room measuring only three metres in all directions, the events that occur and recur daily, visits from friends and relatives, and the days passed in the thrall of drugs, and sit transfixed by the bleakness of Vanda’s onebed apartment, and the gradual destruction of the surrounding buildings. Life despises me. I have lived in ghost houses that others left behind. Houses where a sorceress wouldn’t want to live. But occasionally, I have found a house that was worth the while. All my houses, all the houses were illegal houses. They have been deserted. If we had been better… they wouldn’t have been demolished. And that, house after house. I have paid more for something I didn’t do than for the things I’ve done’ Pango, from No Quatro Da Vanda ‘No Quarto da Vanda’ is also an intimate work, a chamber drama, as the title announces. I took it as documentary, but a documentary of unprecedented candor, the kind of movie Kieslowski claimed is impossible because ‘there are spheres of human intimacy in which one cannot enter with a camera.’ Costa had found his way into these spheres, among poor immigrants who can find only casual, irregular work and must struggle to create a space of their own in a neighborhood (Fontainhas in Lisbon) that we can see being torn down around them. They belong to what some privileged technocrats and their dupes in the U.S. call ‘the underclass.’ So we see Vanda Duarte and her friends smoking smack, shooting up, and talking trash. But there are also moments of astonishing tenderness in

which they seem even more defenseless, moments that recall the most mysterious encounters in the greatest fiction films. For example (a privileged example in my memory), in one of the film’s plainest, brightest sequence shot, Vanda and her friend Pedro sit on the edge of her bed talking about the death of their friend Geni. She gives him some medicine, he gives her some flowers. There is solidarity, even love that is palpable. Presumably Costa could only have recorded these moments with unassuming, lightweight cameras. But, of course, the intimacy of the movie is not simply a matter of technique. There must have been a close mutual respect and friendship between Costa and the people he filmed. Thom Andersen, ‘Ghost Stories’ OÙ GÎT VOTRE SOURIRE ENFOUI? / Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie? Portugal / France 2001, 35mm, 1:1,33, colour, 104 min Direction and cinematography: Pedro Costa, Assistant: Thierry Lounas, Sound: Matthieu Imbert, Editing: Dominique Auvray, Patrícia Saramago, Producer: Francisco Villa-Lobos, Produced by: Contracosta Produções in coproduction of Amip Paris, ARTE France and the Institut National de l’Audiovisuel (INA) with: Danièle Huillet, Jean-Marie Straub Pedro Costa shot this great portrait of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet at work while they were re-editing the third version of Sicilia! at the Studio National des Arts Contemporains in Le Fresnoy. A work of friendship and dedication and a lesson of cinema. The problem with a shot like this, if you want to know, is getting it done. Most of us begin with a cliché – not always, but most of the time – and that’s fine, but you have to look at it from all sides and clarify it. So you start with the idea of discovery… Showing a mountain without the window, without anything. A torn curtain. Then you ask yourself, but why? It will inhibit the viewer’s imagination instead of opening it up and you say to yourself: ‘yes, after having filmed Mount Etna, Mount SaintVictoire, why add another one?’ And so you renounce, slowly. Then one fine day… One

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fine day you realize that it’s better to see as little as possible. You have a sort of… reduction, only it’s not a reduction – it’s a concentration and it actually says more. But you don’t do that immediately from one day to the next. You need time and patience. A sigh can become a novel. Jean-Marie Straub This is a film haunted by the power of the silhouette, and the faces presented and that we are allowed to glance at always tend to gravitate toward that state: an abstracted two-dimensionality that makes both Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub exist at the periphery of their own work in some patient acknowledgement, pondering and shaping of its physical properties. There is a rigor in this abstracting of the human form, in this willingness to be in such close proximity to a figure and yet to never openly play the game of tracking the revelatory explicitness of an expression. The rhetoric of Costa’s portrait goes against all the conventions of film portraiture. We are not invited to witness the blossoming of a memorized anecdote on a face; we are not invited to decipher even the force of conviction in the articulation of an expression: we are just seeing bodies or parts of bodies silhouetted by the tenuous yet potent light that comes from the film material they relentlessly try to shape. Silhouettes by the glow of their work. Jean-Pierre Gorin, Nine Notes on ‘Où gît votre sourire enfoui’ ? 6 BAGATELAS Portugal / France 2003, Beta SP, 1:1,33, colour, 18 min Direction and cinematography: Pedro Costa, Assistant: Thierry Lounas, Sound: Matthieu Imbert, Editing: Patrícia Saramago, Produced by: Contracosta Produções with: Danièle Huillet, Jean-Marie Straub Pedro Costa takes six unused scenes of Où Gît Votre Sourire Enfoui? and edits them into a new context. These fragments are not only ‘bagatelles,’ but a special look at Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub. ‘Though the brevity of these pieces is a

persuasive advocate for them, on the other hand that very brevity itself requires an advocate. Consider what moderation is required to express oneself so briefly. You can stretch every glance out into a poem, every sigh into a novel. But to express a novel in a single gesture, a joy in breath – such concentration can only be present in proportion to the absence of self-pity.’ Arnold Schoenberg on Anton Webern’s ‘6 Bagatelles’ JUVENTUDE EM MARCHA / Colossal Youth Portugal / France / Switzerland 2006, 35mm, 1:1,33, colour, 154 min Direction: Pedro Costa, Cinematography: Pedro Costa, Leonardo Simões, Sound: Olivier Blanc, Jean-Pierre Laforce, Editing: Pedro Marques, Producer: Francisco Villa-Lobos, Produced by: Contracosta Produções and co-produced by Les Films de l’Étranger, Unlimited, Ventura Film, Radiotelevisão Portuguesa and Radiotelevisione svizzera with: Ventura, Vanda Duarte, Beatriz Duarte, Gustavo Sumpta, Cila Cardoso, Alberto Barros, António Semedo, Paulo Nunes, José Maria Pina, André Semedo, Alexandre Silva, Paula Barrulas Ventura, a Cape Verdean labourer living in the outskirts of Lisbon, is suddenly abandoned by his wife Clotilde. Ventura feels lost between the dilapidated old quarter where he spent the last thirty-four years of his life, and the new lodgings in a recently built low-cost housing complex. All the young poor souls he meets seem to become his own children. Nha cretcheu, my love / Our encounter will make our life more beautiful, at least for another thirty years. / For my part, I become younger and return full of energy. / I’d like to offer you a hundred thousand cigarettes, / A dozen snazzy dresses, A car, / The house of lava that you so longed for, / A four penny bunch of flowers. / But before anything else / Drink a fine bottle of wine, / Think about me. / Here work is non-stop. / Now there are more than a hundred of us. / The day before yesterday, my birthday / Was the time for a deep thought about you. / Did the letter they brought arrive safely? / I receive no reply. /

I’ll wait. / Every day, every minute. / Every day I learn some new and beautiful words, just for the two of us. / Tailor-made, like a fine silk pajama. Would you like that? / I can only send you with one letter per month. / But still nothing from your hand. / Maybe next time. / Sometimes I’m frightened about building this wall / Me, with a pick-axe and cement / You, with your silence / Such a deep valley that it pushes you towards oblivion. / It hurts me inside to see these bad things I don’t want to see. / Your beautiful hair falls from my hands like blades of dry grass. / Sometimes I lose my energy and imagine that I’m going to forget about myself. Ventura’s Letter Ventura and Desnos were destined to meet. It took place in this film. It’s History. It’s Cinema. One line from Desnos, ‘I’d like to offer you 100,000 cigarettes.’ One line from Ventura, ‘the house of lava that you so longed for.’ Both are condemned, destroyed men, ghosts of other men that despite torture, madness and exploitation still managed to resist. This love letter had to become a moral and political testament, a declaration of war. This letter attempts to appease their suffering while announcing far worse horrors. (...) Ventura arrived in Portugal in 1972, he found a well-paid mason, job and he believed that he would succeed, that he would be able to save up enough money to bring his wife from Cape Verde. Then the revolution took place and he told me the secret story of African immigrants in Lisbon after April 25th 1974. They feared they would be deported or imprisoned. For Ventura this was a moment of condemnation: chaos, delirium, sickness. He was simultaneously a prisoner and guard in his wooden shanty house in Fontainhas. He survived by repeating and memorizing ‘ad eternum’ his love letter. I realized that the April 25th Revolution, that for me was a moment of lyrical exaltation and enthusiasm, constituted a nightmare for Ventura. I was a kid at the time. I went out to the streets, demonstrating, and, probably, already dreaming about cinema. A while ago, I looked for some photographs of the May 1st crowds with thousands of people celebrating. It’s incredible - you don’t see a single black face. Where were they? Ventura told me that they were all huddled together, absolutely terrified, hidden in the

Estrela Garden, worried about their future. It is precisely because I film these things in this manner that I don’t believe in democracy. No one in Fontainhas believes in democracy. People like Ventura built the banks, museums, theatres, schools and condominiums of the bourgeoisie. And it’s precisely what they helped build that defeated them. You have the cruelest proof of this failure in the other rooms, the agony of Paulo, Vanda, Zita, the permanent collapse of those rooms. Pedro Costa TARRAFAL Portugal 2007, 35mm, 1:1,33, colour, 16 min Direction and cinematography: Pedro Costa, Sound: Vasco Pedroso, Olivier Blanc, Editing: Patrícia Saramago, Produced by Luís Correia, LX Filmes with: José Alberto Silva, Lucinda Tavares, Ventura, Alfredo Mendes Tarrafal is part of ‘The State of the World’ film, commissioned by the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian José Alberto, 30 years old, receives a letter of extradition. The inequities of the past and the injustice of the present situation of migrant labourers forced to leave Portugal, meet in a plea for memory and resilience. Tarrafal, sixteen minutes, fifteen shots, stories and dialogues stretching over in the stillness of the night and of the the countryside. The place is before anything else one of these ‘filmmaker’s room’ (Jacques Rancière), where voices emerge from the darkness and dwell on endlessly. The disinherited speak to master their own lives, their own survival: here a woman and her grown up boy with dreadlocks, in his thirties. Nothing is more common, more concrete than the situations and the informations that we’re offered. The first word is ‘mum’, the family ties are omnipresent, it’s about returning to Cape Vert, about where to live, how to build a house, what to eat. The places are named and listed: Mourão, Montinho, Achada, Ungueira, Raçatcho, Montinho de Cima, Montinho de Baixo, Milho Branco, Santana near Assomada. The mother shivers, she coughs, her hands under her arms, she warms herself just thinking about her homeland and feels like putting her bones to rest. Then it’s all about bewitchment

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and death as in every other film by Pedro Costa. On the same tone, the mom tells a tale from her land, about a vampire that hands its victims a parchment without them noticing, and kills them when he returns to collect it. Bernard Eisenschitz NE CHANGE RIEN Portugal / France 2009, 35mm / 1:1,33, b/w, 98 min Direction and cinematography: Pedro Costa, Sound: Philippe Morel, Olivier Blanc, Vasco Pedroso, Sound editing: Miguel Cabral, Olivier Blanc, Sound Mix: Jean-Pierre Laforce, Editing: Patrícia Saramago, Producer: Abel Ribeiro Chaves, Prod uced by: Sociedade Óptica Técnica in co-production with Red Star Cinéma with: Jeanne Balibar, Rodolphe Burger, Hervé Loos, Arnaud Dieterlen, Joël Theux Ne Change Rien was born as a result of the friendship between Jeanne Balibar, sound engineer Philippe Morel, and Pedro Costa. The film follows Jeanne Balibar, the singer, from rehearsals to recording sessions, from rock concerts to classical singing lessons, from an attic in the Black Forest to the stage of a Tokyo café, from ‘Johnny Guitar’ to Offenbach’s ‘La Périchole’. ‘Like a cork along the water stream’, said, if I remember well, Orson Welles to Jeanne Moreau about something else. It might sound funny, but I always thought that being a movie actress felt like returning to life as a newborn: changed, dressed up, made up, scrutinized; and that being a stage actress brought you back to the enchantment of your first words. Maybe being a singer constantly brings back the thrill of my first steps – before words, before my first stroke – after the age of reason.’ Jeanne Balibar It also turns out Costa’s been making something like concert films for years—Costa, similar to Straub, displacing the emotions of his statuecharacters to the soundtrack, usually diffused bird songs and children’s yelps. Balibar’s ongoing concert’s not any different: a woman in a closed room, standing at a mike, looking as straight and still as Costa’s camera (as usual, left in place for minutes), while her voice and the music, piped in and out around her, do the emoting for her

while she’s just hanging out and trying to find the beat. Still lives with music, almost. But what’s different in Ne change rien, probably because it’s a documentary (though about as much a doc as Costa’s other recent films, which also show everyday life as staged by the people who live it), is the expressiveness of the actors, grinning when they find the mainline, hands flicking up and down on their knees. Costa lights bodies like solar flare lines and faces like half-moons, slight whites against pitch black backgrounds, so that a slight turn of the neck can reconfigure a face’s composition, bring new parts out from shadow; the look is almost charcoal. The result’s that players are only seen minimally—in silhouette with a hand waving back and forth, or just an eye and right curl of the mouth—so that the smallest gestures express maximally. The opening shot, the simplest shot from a stage right wing as the musicians come out and start, makes stage lights look like stars, the act a constellation. The movie’s just people jamming, superficially his Poor Little Rich Girl, but Costa, as usual, gives the most banal acts metaphysical weight: as in a dream— my dreams, anyway, half-awake—starting with a half-formed image and a montage of sounds and voices, building, that gradually find their bodies (and what’s maybe most dream-like is the tangential realism: an off-screen voice correcting Balibar’s ‘v’s and saying ‘I like consonants too’ David Phelps, Cannes 2009: There Outta be a Moonlight Saving Time, theautheurs.com, 15 May 2009 CARTE BLANCHE Itinéraire de Jean Bricard Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, France 2008, 40 min What can one say about Danièle and JeanMarie’s films? They make us feel that cinema is still worth something. Pedro Costa Based on the book by Jean-Yves Petiteau, who narrates the film, Itinéraire de Jean Bricard tells the rich history of the Loire region, from commercial fishing and farming in the 1930s, through the Occupation, the Resistance and its brutal suppression. A reflection on the livelihood of the past, about loss and resistance.

Sicilia! Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, Italy/ France 1999, 66 min Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet have created a bold and beautiful adaptation of Elio Vittorini’s masterwork Conversations in Sicily. Published in 1939 and a best seller until banned in 1942, the novel narrates the return of an intellectual to his native Sicily after a long absence. The film is structured as a series of dialogue encounters— with strangers in a port, fellow passengers on a train, the protagonist’s mother—each of which conceals more than it reveals, emphasizing the distance between what can be seen and felt and what can be expressed. Moving beyond the original’s immediate context—the increasing oppression of pre-war Italy—Straub/Huillet offer a moving look at the state of permanent exile common to all of those who can’t go home again. New York Film Festival The Struggle DW Griffith, USA 1931, 84 min In these hard times, it should be an obligation: 90 minutes more of DW Griffith in a film theatre equals 90 minutes less of abstract crap on the screen. Pedro Costa Griffith’s brutally intense and underrated final feature, decried by critics at the time as too ‘Soviet’, is a straight-up tale of alcoholism and a startling portrait of urban America during the Depression. Puissance de la Parole (The Power of Words) Jean-Luc Godard, France 1988, 25 min I remember Langlois saying that Godard and Warhol had taught us how not to make films. These two shine a light, absolutely. Pedro Costa Puissance de la parole is Godard’s elegy about the power of words, and a dialogue on the origin of creation. Beauty #2 Andy Warhol, USA 1965, 66 min Beauty #2 is one of Warhol’s rarest films and a next of kin to Costa’s In Vanda’s Room. The film plants Edie Sedgwick on a bed

seducing (seduced by?) Gino Piserchio, while a Doberman Pinscher named Horse uses his slack leash to appear and disappear from the frame. Off-screen, Edie’s ex-lover Chuck Wein taunts and betrays. This is performing, acting, and being as a trial – and everyone (audience, performers, director) is culpable. Le Cochon (The Pig) Jean Eustache, France 1970, 50 min Like candy in a store, like a Sunday walk in the country, like a good mystery novel, two wonderful gifts from Eustache and Gorin to enjoy and be thankful. Pedro Costa Considered by many to be Eustache’s most beautiful film, the bluntly named Le Cochon is, on the surface, an ethnographic documentary that captures a dying tradition: the slaughter and processing of a pig on a farm in the southern Massif Central. The view is detached but sympathetic: ‘With scrupulous respect for popular traditions, the film features an amazing soundtrack in which the source and originality of natural voices remains captivating, even though the thick patois and onomatopoeic accents make the actual spoken words incomprehensible.’ (Luc Moullet, Film Comment); for that reason, the film has never been subtitled. Critics have discerned in the film a critique of technology, and even religious or mythic meaning (the pig as sacrifice), its cinematic lineage pointing both back to Dreyer (La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc) and forward to Olmi’s The Tree of the Wooden Clwogs. Routine Pleasures Jean-Pierre Gorin, USA/UK/France 1986, 81 min When I saw ‘Routine Pleasures’ (on TV) I really identified with those grey routine guys whose occupation is a mini-clone of what Marx K. would call their exploitation. And what I really (note those three l’s) liked about the film was that its rhythm espouses theirs with a sympathetic camaraderie and little or no cross-cutting between painting and 3-d ‘realism’ which the first and alas last thing my Eisenstein might have thought of- or flashy bright cheery Allen Jones cuts, locos/fingertips- do you know that Charles

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Routine Pleasures is film essay that grew from the close friendship between Manny Farber and Jean-Pierre Gorin, and deals with method and work, American culture and landscape, and artistic imagination. SCHEDULE Programme One Friday, 25 September 19.00 No Quarto da Vanda (In Vanda’s Room) Screening introduced by Pedro Costa Programme Two Saturday, 26 September 19.00 Juventude em Marcha (Colossal Youth) Programme Three Sunday, 27 September 12.00 Billie Holiday Sings ‘Fine and Mellow’ O Sangue (Blood) Programme Four Sunday, 27 September 15.00 Casa de Lava Tarrafal Programme Five Sunday, 27 September 18.30 Ossos (Bones)

6 Bagatelas Followed by a conversation between Pedro Costa and Jean-Pierre Gorin. Programme Nine Sunday, 4 October 12.00 The Struggle, DW Griffith Programme Ten Sunday, 4 October 14.00 Puissance de la parole (The Power of Words), Jean-Luc Godard Beauty #2, Andy Warhol Programme Eleven Sunday, 4 October 17.00 Le Cochon (The Pig), Jean Eustache Routine Pleasures, Jean-Pierre Gorin Followed by a conversation between Pedro Costa and Jean-Pierre Gorin.

Pedro Costa Tarrafal 2007 © Pedro Costa

Curator: Stuart Comer Assistant Curator: Marie Canet With special thanks to Ricardo Matos Cabo.

Pedro Costa Où Gît Votre Sourire Enfoui? 2001 © Pedro Costa

Pedro Costa No Quarto da Vanda 2000 © Pedro Costa

Pedro Costa O Sangue 1989 © Pedro Costa

Où Gît Votre Sourire Enfoui? (Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie?)

Pedro Costa Ossos 1997 © Pedro Costa

& Ray Eames ‘Toccata For Toy Trains’ which is the antithesis of your film (even down to celebrating toys-which-aren’t-models whereas your guy’s mind is deadpan reality-replication, even down to timetabling, models-that-only-happen-tobe-toys)? There’s a CAHIERS-style piece here on your film being about films as well as trains, both being illusionisms, and why bourgeois realism knows the model-reality difference perfectly well but loves pretending that it doesn’t- in the case of trains because confronting reality with a real train always has something heroic about it, steam against the sky,, steel lunging through space, whereas the model has no heroism at all, it’s the apotheosis of infantile –obsessional control, not to say consummate anality about…motions.’ Raymond Durgnat, December 1988

Ne Change Rien Screening introduced by Pedro Costa Programme Seven Saturday, 3 October 15.00 Itinéraire de Jean Bricard, Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet Sicilia!, Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet Programme Eight Saturday, 3 October 19.00

Pedro Costa Juventude em Marcha 2006 © Pedro Costa

Programme Six Friday, 2 October 19.00

Visit www.tate.org.uk/modern/film Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1 9TG Nearest Southwark / Bankside Pier

Pedro Costa O Sangue 1989 © Pedro Costa

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