Colossal Youth Pedro Costa

Few films have led me to such ruinous defeat as Pedro Costa’s Colossal Youth. Costa is a man much admired in highbrow circles, so I was eager to see his breakthrough movie; it turns out to be a film of great conceptual force that is nonetheless a trial to sit through. One wants to be sympathetic to a film with such empathy for the underclass and lost souls, and the film offers plenty of examples, chiefly amongst them the 50-ish Ventura, who alternately seeks a home for his children and sits down to relate to them when fully-grown. But though the nightmare of filthy hovels vs. antiseptic social housing is chillingly rendered (as well as various other nightmares of deprivation, including drug abuse), Costa’s method alienated me early and often. His agonisingly long takes, stand-and-deliver, non-professional acting and iconic renderings of human figures add up to something that is intelligently designed, goes off exactly as an exacting artist would plan and drives you up the wall within 30 minutes guaranteed. It pains me to say this, because Costa’s a man with a mission and has the aesthetic chops to get him there, but at the end of the day the film is so abstract in its rendering of its heroes’ concrete problems that it began to look like another planet. That may have been the point — to say that the dispossessed live in a space outside "normal” consideration — but the approach is taken to such a point that things seem mechanical and ultimately tedious. I wish Costa well as he develops his themes and style (he’s apparently been hoeing this row for some time with many of the same actors), but I have to include myself out of this particular Pedro party. (Contracosta Produções, LDA)