Saturday, December 31, 2022

2022 Blind Spot Series: Colossal Youth


Written, directed, and co-shot by Pedro Costa, Juventude de Marcha (Colossal Youth) is the third and final film of a trilogy set in the Fontainhas shantytowns near Lisbon, Portugal as it explores the life of an elderly Cape Verdean immigrant in Ventura who deals with the world around him as he’s been abandoned by his wife while spending time with neighbors who have either fled Fontainhas or are still living there in its final days. A mixture of documentary and fiction, the film explore the aftermath of the Carnation Revolution of the 1970s and how it affected those in the 21st Century that lead to a lot of trouble for those living below the poverty line. Also starring Vanda Duarte, Beatriz Duarte, Cila Cardoso, and Alberto “Lento” Barros. Juventude de Marcha is a mesmerizing and haunting film from Pedro Costa.

The film follows a man living in the Fontainhas shantytowns near Lisbon, Portugal as he deals with the fact that the shantytowns are almost extinct as he struggles to find a new home after his wife had left him. It is a film that plays into a man dealing with his surroundings but also meeting these neighbors whom he refers to as his children as they deal with their new lives including Vanda Duarte who has ended her heroin addiction though she is on methadone and trying to raise her own child Beatriz. While there isn’t much of a narrative in the film as it mixes elements of fiction and documentary, Pedro Costa does showcase a world that is almost gone but also where many of the inhabitants of Fontainhas have gone to where its protagonist Ventura is trying to get a home there but not just for himself but also for other neighbors. Even as he deals with the fact that he’s living on the outskirts with a friend as well as coping with health issues and the deaths of those he knew in Fontainhas.

Costa’s direction definitely aims for a minimalist approach as it is shot on digital video cameras with largely static wide-medium shots in a 1:33:1 aspect ratio where there are some close-ups but the camera never moves. It is a similar approach that Costa did with his previous film of his Fontainhas trilogy yet there is a more vibrancy to the look of the film with its usage of available light as Costa shoots the film with co-cinematographer Leondardo Simoes. Costa would keep this minimalist approach with shots ranging from a few minutes to capture everything that is happening with Vanda talking to Ventura in her own room as it’s shot at the corner of a room where both of them are on Vanda’s bed watching TV while Vanda’s young daughter Beatriz is playing with a toy and dancing to music. There are also moments set in the night where Costa and Simoes shoot on available light as there is an atmosphere to the way things are presented as the cameras that Costa and Simoes have are more high-definition that removes some of the crude aspects from Costa’s previous film from the trilogy.

Costa’s approach to shooting for long takes does give the film’s pacing a somewhat sluggish feel but it doesn’t meander in order to showcase Ventura throughout the entirety of the film as he eats with Vanda’s husband or visiting his daughter as they ponder the whereabouts of his wife and son whom they both believe is alive. Costa also play into this sense of loss late into the film with some long, unbroken takes such as Ventura, Vanda, and her husband eating as they lament over those who didn’t survive where music is being played in another room loudly as it plays into the natural approach to sound due to the sound work of Olivier Blanc, Vasco Pedroso, and Jean-Pierre Laforce. Editor Pedro Marques helps maintain this approach to shots that last long while knowing when to and to not cut during a key moment such as Ventura visiting an old friend whose leg injury still pains him after all of these years. It has these moments that doesn’t just play to the social politics of what Ventura and his neighbors went through but also the fact that despite being in a new home. They still have struggles that keep them away from the conventions of modern-day society as they’re still seen as outsiders.

The film’s cast that largely consists of non-actors as it features appearances from Vanda’s infant daughter Beatriz as well as Alexandre “Xana” Silva as a mysterious figure in Ventura’s life, Paolo Nunes as the man who still has issues with his leg, Paula Barrulas as Paulo’s girlfriend, Isabel Cardoso as Ventura’s wife Clotilde, Gustavo Sumpta as Vanda’s husband whom Ventura often hangs out with as they eat dinner, and Cila Cardoso as Ventura’s daughter. Alberto “Lento” Barros is excellent as Ventura’s housemate whom he would live with in various shacks as they deal with their isolation while Vanda Duarte is brilliant as a woman trying to clean herself up as she sees Ventura as a father figure as they both lament over their own sense of loss. Finally, there’s Ventura in an amazing performance as this retired 75-year old laborer whose wife leaves him with a few clothes and that is it as he laments over the world around him but also in wanting a new home but realizes that there are complications that add to this social and political disarray as it relates to the destruction of Fontainhas.

Juventude de Marcha is a sensational film from Pedro Costa. While it is a film that isn’t easy to watch due to its pacing and minimalist approach. It is still this entrancing film that showcases an old man dealing with his surroundings and the social/political chaos that is around him as it relates to people in his community with those accepting their fates with others unable to be part of society. In the end, Juventude de Marcha is a phenomenal film from Pedro Costa.

Pedro Costa Films: (O Sangue) – (Casa de lava) – Ossos - No Quatro da Vanda - (Ou git votre sourire enfoui?) – (Ne change rien) – (Cavalo dinheiro) – Vitalina Varela

© thevoid99 2022


Brittani Burnham said...

Great review! Another one I'm not familiar with, but as always I enjoy hearing about new to me movies.

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-I always like to explore something different as I was able to get the box set of films this past summer as part of the Criterion DVD/Blu-Ray sale from Barnes & Noble. I should warn you that all 3 films are bleak and... fuckin' slow but for good reasons.