Colossal Youth

"Extraordinary"

Colossal Youth Review


There's no getting around this: Pedro Costa's Colossal Youth couldn't be more difficult to comprehend, discuss, or stay awake through. And at the same time, there hasn't been a film like this in years, one that begs to be mulled-over and picked-through, analyzed, and forensically-examined as if it were some dried up corpse found in the middle of the desert without a tent or camel within 100 miles. When it premiered at Cannes in 2006, the walk-out count was reportedly in the triple digits, only being rivaled by Richard Kelly's Southland Tales for misinterpretation and bitter bewilderment.

Costa doesn't give an inch. The film derives all construction through character and atmosphere without even the faintest whiff of a script or a legitimate story to speak of. In minimalist fashion, the only music comes from the shuffle of dust against a sandal and the sound of decaying voices echoing through the Lisbon ghetto where Costa filmed Youth. Shot in gritty yet ethereal digital video, Costa's triumph of existence cinema can only be fully understood as an act of experience.

The only character of note is that of Ventura, a human vulture that skulks around the shattered apartments and moldy ruins of his ghetto. Ventura walks around, talking to his neighbors, people he refers to as his "children." A vast portion of the film is spent watching Ventura speak to these children about the mother who left them and him, only being dragged away for the occasional card game or to check out a new apartment for his children and him. And if that doesn't get your blood pumping, wait till you hear about the endless moments spent on a bed with one of his daughters, watching a TV we never see.

Ventura suggests a certain spiritual duality. He does indeed exist in this surreal ghetto, but he also seems to be haunting it at the same time. You could consider him a ghost, but a ghost doesn't seem so irrevocably welded to the physical world the way Ventura is. Yet, he looms over his own existence as if measuring the metaphysical weight of every action he takes.

Costa himself has noted the influence of John Ford on his work, specifically citing the old master's military-court drama Sergeant Rutledge. At moments, Costa's imagery has a resonating style with space that recalls the open prairies, mountains and clay-red canyons that Ford filmed with such pristine grandeur. The varying difference comes from Youth's darkened corridors and soggy apartment-lighting, suggesting a present sense of dread and gloom in its aesthetic.

Taking the ghetto out of its often-referenced turbulence and into a state of rusted grace, Colossal Youth offers the year's most refined sense of character. Ventura's world is defined only through him and, therefore, the experience of watching him becomes an action of trance. The screen itself serves as a meditative mediator to the audience and the image becomes the only focal point. It's impossible to describe as anything less than reverie.

Aka Juventude Em Marcha.



Colossal Youth

Facts and Figures

In Theaters: Thursday 23rd November 2006

Distributed by: Equation Distribution

Production compaines: Ventura Film, Contracosta Produções

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Fresh: 12 Rotten: 2

IMDB: 7.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Pedro Costa

Producer: Francisco Villa-Lobos

Starring: Ventura as Ventura, Vanda Duarte as Vanda, Isabel Cardoso as Clotilde, Alberto 'Lento' Barros as Lento

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