Youth Under The Influence (Of Pedro Costa) – Part 3: The Natural Sexual One

Michael Guarneri and Patrick Holzapfel continue their discussion about the films they have seen after meeting with Mr. Costa in Munich, in June 2015. Quite naturally, in this part, they end up talking about Mr. Costa’s films and find something between sexual desires and ethical distance in cinema.

Part 1

Part 2

Michael: (…) Maybe it’s an Italian thing, an Italian take on poverty, but when I asked my grandparents about Chaplin’s films, they said something I find very interesting: “Yeah, I remember the tramp guy, very funny movies, I laughed so hard… but being poor it’s another world entirely”.

Please mind that I have consciously chosen Chaplin as he is one of Mr. Costa’s favorite filmmakers. Is Chaplin a traitor, in your view?

Patrick: Again, you make me think of Renoir, who said: “Filmmakers are the sons of the bourgeoisie. They bring to their career the weaknesses of their decadent class.” Did Chaplin know what poverty was/is? If he knew, was he really interested in it? We know that, as opposed to Renoir, Chaplin did not come from a rich household or a secure life. We know that Chaplin enjoyed his money, the money he earned, he was proud, living the capitalist dream by showing its downside. Compared to Ventura almost every other actor seems to be a traitor.

But maybe there is more to being poor and human than the reality of social conditions (which Chaplin in my view was merely addressing, addressing in a very brave manner because he was talking about things in his films that others wouldn’t have dared to – his films are always meant to be a film, an illusion and his acting is the best way to detect that: it is very clear that he is not really poor, he does not lie about it). Maybe there is some truth in his films that goes beyond their credibility. I think cinema would be much poorer if only those were allowed to show certain issues that lived through them.

casa de Lava7

Nevertheless I can perfectly understand your points and there is certainly some truth to them. I never really was overwhelmed by Chaplin’s worlds, it is somehow very distant for me, I watch his films in an observing mode. I never understood how one can identify with the Tramp. But while observing I identify with the filmmaker. Which brings me to a rather curious and certainly stupid “what-if”… I just asked myself why Mr. Costa is not visible in his films. He talks so much about the trust, the friendship and his life in Fontainhas. He should obviously be a part of this world. I don’t mean in the Miguel Gomes kind of way, but just in order to be sincere, because we shouldn’t forget that there is someone in the room when Ventura shakes, maybe he doesn’t shake at all, maybe someone tells (I think Mr.Costa has already talked about that) him: “Shake a bit more, Ventura.” But then I know that Mr. Costa and his camera are visible if you look at his films… It is just a question of his body being there, the presence. Do you know what I mean?

Michael: I am not sure if I understand what you mean, especially because I am not well-acquainted with Miguel Gomes’s body of work. Anyway, there is this scene in (near the end of?) In Vanda’s Room: Zita is in the frame, with her little half-brother if I remember correctly, and in a corner you can see a camera tripod against a wall. Maybe it is shy Mr. Costa “revealing himself”? I think so. Otherwise, yeah, as a person, he’s pretty much in the dark, behind the camera, in the 180 degrees of space in which we have been trained to pretend that everything and nothing exists. But is he really “hiding” in the dark? I am not sure. Sometimes it seems to me that Mr. Costa is all over the place, and not just a presence looming at the margins of the frame, off-camera. There’s a lot of autobiography in O Sangue. In Casa de Lava, Mariana is lost in Capo Verde just like Mr. Costa lost himself during a Heart-of-Darkness-esque shooting adventure in the tropics…

About Ventura shaking more than he actually does in real life: yeah, I read that too. I think it has to do with the way the camera captures movement. Did it ever happen to you that something that was perfect in real-time/real-life speed was awful when filmed? Like, you shoot a certain scene, and when you watch it on the screen you realize that this or that real-life movement must be done more slowly to look good once filmed? I think it is the same with Ventura’s shaking. It had to be exaggerated to become “cinematic”, to become visible, comprehensible, dramatic, melodramatic. I guess this is why Chaplin rehearsed on film…

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Patrick: I just looked up the scene with Zita and her half-brother but couldn’t make out the tripod. Can you maybe send me a screenshot? I think it is due to my bad copy of the film or the darkness of the screen I have here because I cannot really see what is in the corners of the frame.

You are completely right about Mr. Costa being all over the place in his films though. I think it is most obvious in Ossos and his portraits of artists at work, Ne change rien and Where does your hidden smile lie?. I think it is a question of approach, the distance to the filmed ones always tells us something about the one who films with Mr. Costa. It is not only his position in spatial terms, but also in ethical and emotional terms. I am very careful with autobiographical aspects though you have your points. After all the way of a shooting, personal desires and memories are part of many, many films. It is very hard not to have more or less obvious traces in a film.

As for the way camera captures not only movement but anything, I think… the notion of something being empty or crowded, speed, relations like big and small and so on, yes, I know that and yes, this is surely a reason to shake more… but still… it only shows me that cheating is part of making films. So for me what counts is what is on the screen.

Gomes often has his film crew acting out in front of the camera including himself. It is a very hip thing, full of irony and self-reflexion. In Our beloved month of August it worked for me because from the absurd body of the motionless director who is Gomes here, searching for money, without motion – without a picture – derives something important which is the fact that cinema can be found, will be found. In Arabian Nights he went for something similar (much bigger, of course) and he is always flirting with his own disappearance or death, the disappearance of the author, the idea of illusion as an escape from reality, maybe he desperately wants to escape because he is a traitor like all of them, like all of us – look at us! But Gomes and the question of the body of the director leads me to another recommendation of Mr. Costa I followed after our meeting: João César Monteiro. Are you familiar with his work?

 Ne change rien

Michael: I won’t send you a screenshot of the tripod-thing for the same reason Straub-Huillet didn’t put an image of the mountain when the mother looks out of the window in Sicilia!: I want to give you a space to imagine things. Nah, jokes aside, I cannot find the shot right now, skimming through the movie. But it’s there. Zita is there, I don’t know about the kid. She is in a sort of storage closet, the tripod is leaning against the wall in the background. Or maybe there is no tripod at all, I don’t know. Maybe it’s like the smile in Mr. Costa’s Straub-Huillet film, or the twitch in the neck of comatose Leão at the beginning of Casa de Lava: sometimes it is there, sometimes it isn’t.

About João César Monteiro, I have watched his film about the aftermath of the Carnation Revolution Que Farei com Esta Espada?, and A Flor do Mar. What did you see? Were you impressed?

Patrick: I have seen Silvestre, As Bodas de Deus, Vai e vem and O Ultimo Mergulho. Mr. Costa advised me to see Monteiro’s debut feature Veredas first, but I could not find subtitles.

Silvestre is really an amazing film. It is full of beauty and manages to have one serious and one ironic eye on folkloristic tales and the way they are told. Rarely have I seen such a depth in artificial imagery. O Ultimo Mergulho is also great. It is a sensual comedy of tragic circumstances, and also a documentary on a Lisbon night. For the other two, which happened later in his career, I can only say that I found them to be curious little charmers. No more, no less. But they are very interesting in regards to what we have been talking about: the body of the director in Portuguese cinema. With Monteiro we have this recurring character he plays, João de Deus. As I have seen only two of those films I cannot say too much about it. It seems to be something close to Buster Keaton, just a little madder and sexually deranged (if you google the name you will also find that this is the name of a medium and psychic surgeon from Brazil).

But Monteiro really gives his body to his films. Whereas Gomes tries to disappear, with Monteiro it is all about the presence of his body. He is much more serious as an actor, I think. There is another thing that strikes me about Portuguese cinema which is the use of language. How do you perceive that as someone whose mother tongue is much closer to Portuguese than mine? For me, no matter if Monteiro, Gomes (not as much), Lopes, Villaverde, Pinto, Rodrigues or Mr. Costa, almost all of them, the use of language is closer to poetry than anything else. It is very hard to do that in German though some directors managed to.

O Sangue4

 

Michael: I wish spoken Portuguese was closer to Italian! On the written page, the languages are very similar, but because of the way Portuguese is spoken – the pronunciation, I mean – it is just impossible for me to understand. I can understand little things and try to infer the general meaning of a given sentence, but most of the time it is impossible for me to follow. Bottom line is: I need subtitles, too, and I won’t risk any judgement to the poetic quality of Portuguese.

Anyway, about Vai e vem, do you know the scene in which Monteiro sits under the big tree in the park? That is the park – Principe Real – where he and Mr. Costa used to meet many many many many many years ago to read the papers together, drink coffee and talk… But it would be really hard to find strict similarities between their films, wouldn’t it?

Patrick: Do you really need to understand to hear poetry? For me, it has more to do with rhythm and sound. Of course, knowing the language is essential for poetry, but to get a feeling if something is poetic or not…well, I am not sure.

Thanks for the info about the park! I think there are some similarities concerning their use of montage especially related to Costa’s first three features. It is certainly hard to grasp. I would have to see more of Monteiro.

So now the youth under the influence of Mr.Costa talks about the influences on Mr. Costa. Do you see any connections to Portuguese cinema with him?

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Michael: For what I have seen, and heard, and read, I think the biggest similarity between Monteiro and Mr. Costa is their being “natural heterosexual filmmakers” (I am more or less quoting Mr. Costa, as filtered through my memory). How did they use to say back in the days? Cinema is a girl and a gun… This is also very Chaplinesque, of course. Rest assured that I am not alluding to anything deranged (though I read that there is some kinky sex and weird stuff in Monteiro’s João de Deus). It is just this idea of approaching interesting girls by means of a camera… I won’t ask you your opinion on this because you told me that you have a girlfriend: we will discuss that in private maybe.

For a more general take on the Portuguese scene, the names Mr. Costa always names are António Reis and Paulo Rocha. The former was his teacher at Lisbon Film School, and together with Margarida Cordeiro made a few films that Mr. Costa really likes, especially Ana and Tras-os-Montes. The latter made Os Verdes Anos and Mudar de Vida, which Mr. Costa recently helped restoring (they are available in a DVD boxset with English subtitles now).

If I had to be didactic, I’d say that the influence of the two early masterpieces by Rocha is more pronounced in O Sangue (whose title could have easily been “Os Verdes Anos”, i.e. “The Green Years”), both in the imagery and in the coming-of-age/maudit/enfant terrible/doomed love mood. I think that Reis, being not only a filmmaker but also a poet and an anthropologist, influenced a lot Mr. Costa’s approach to the cinematic expeditions in Cape Verde and Fontainhas… Reis used to say: “Look at the stone, the story comes afterwards…”. These words must have been a great inspiration for Mr. Costa as he was researching and searching his way into cinema after O Sangue. But of course things are more complex than this… Do you follow me? Have you seen Rocha’s dyptic and Reis and Cordeiro’s films?

O sangue2

Patrick: I can follow you very well, though of the above I have only seen Tras-os-Montes. I think that this midway between a (natural sexual and political conscious) poet and an anthropologist by means of film and work with film is much of what Mr. Costa is all about right now. There is something António Reis once said when talking to Serge Daney that strongly reminds me of Mr.Costa’s work in Fontainhas: “I can tell you that we never shot with a peasant, a child or an old person, without having first become his pal or his friend. This seemed to us an essential point, in order to be able to work and so that there weren’t problems with the machines. When we began shooting with them, the camera was already a kind of little pet, like a toy or a cooking utensil, that didn’t scare them.”

This idea of friendship of complicity… tenderness… how to film someone, how to work with someone you film, so what is this natural sexual thing really? Though you politely offered to discuss it in private between two male cinema observers/workers/lovers, I have to insist to have part of this conversation in public… I think it is remarkable how much anger and fear is in the way Mr. Costa’s camera approaches women (and men), especially compared to Monteiro, who I can always feel being very much in love with what he films and sharing this feeling. There is a sense of doubt with Mr. Costa, a darkness, this constant feeling of being not able to really enter with his camera and lights. Well, I get this point about cinema as a way of approaching women. Filmmakers like Ingmar Bergman or Leos Carax talked about it and have practiced it very excessively. But you can see/feel/touch it in their films. With Mr. Costa it feels different for me. It is like I can only touch the desire and never touch the thing itself. “Very abstract, very abstract”, like Monsieur Verdoux would say, but I think this is exactly what touches me in Mr. Costa’s films. With him the desire for movement is as strong as the movement. I can only think of two other filmmakers that are able to do that in contemporary cinema: Sharunas Bartas and Tsai Ming-liang. But much of this approach I could sense with Tras-os-Montes, though I am mixing ethics and sexuality here which might be a mistake.

Ossos6

Michael: No, in general I think it is good to mix them. Maybe they are the same thing, as sometimes the Marquis suggested (e.g., in the incomparable Français, encore un effort pour être républicains)…

I don’t know about the anger, but there surely is fear in Mr. Costa’s approach to filming people, and women especially (Ines, Vanda and Zita above all, in my view). Take In Vanda’s Room, for instance. A heterosexual filmmaker is in the girl’s bedroom with a camera… it’s strange, it’s cool, it’s unsettling, it’s exciting for a guy being there, isn’t it? What will happen? What is the secret beyond the door? What is the mystery of the chambre vert? But it is also scary: it is not a man’s world, and the girl might ridicule him, make him uncomfortable, and so on… He is in her kingdom, after all. He is in her power completely. So there you have it: fear going hand in hand with desire. Somebody even made a debut feature film called Fear and Desire, and then locked it in a cellar because he was too scared to show it to people. You wrote “this constant feeling of being not able to really enter”: it seems to me that the desire to enter and the fear of not being able to enter are what sex is all about. But the discussion is definitely getting weird. Mother, if you are reading this: this is film criticism, I am not a prevert.

Patrick: Your writing “prevert” instead of “pervert” reminds me that recently I have seen Le Quai des brumes by Marcel Carné, a film written by another one of those film-poets: Jacques Prévert. There is a painter in the film who probably ends up killing himself and he is talking a bit like Mr. Costa last year in Locarno when he described and somehow regretted how he always ends up talking about the terrible, fearful things in his films. The painter says: “When I see someone swimming, I always imagine him drowning.” Judging from his films, I think Mr.Costa is a bit like that. And I love that Carné is presenting any other worldview as an illusion.

I want to ask you two questions: 1. Do you think Mr.Costa films more the things he loves or the things he fears? 2. Do you prefer in cinema to be confronted with the things you love or the things you fear?

TO BE CONTINUED

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  47. I will devices this assessment in the direction of 2 layouts of americans: existing Zune homeowners who are looking at an improve, and Those people making an attempt in direction of make your mind up involving a Zune and an iPod. (There are other avid gamers really worth considering out there, including the Sony Walkman X, nevertheless I count on this offers on your own sufficient information and facts to deliver an informed determination of the Zune vs gamers other than the iPod line as effectively.)

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  52. If you happen to be however upon the fence: grab your favored earphones, intellect down to a Least difficult Invest in and request toward plug them into a Zune then an iPod and watch which a person appears superior towards oneself, and which interface would make oneself smile much more. Then you’ll recognize which is instantly for yourself.

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  54. If you are continue to upon the fence: seize your most loved earphones, intellect down to a Ideal Order and talk to towards plug them into a Zune then an iPod and view which 1 seems much better in the direction of your self, and which interface tends to make on your own smile further more. Then you will recognize which is specifically for oneself.

  55. Yesterday, while I was at work, my cousin stole my iphone and tested to see if it can survive a 25 foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation. My apple ipad is now broken and she has 83 views. I know this is totally off topic but I had to share it with someone!

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  58. The Zune concentrates upon currently being a Portable Media Player. Not a world-wide-web browser. Not a recreation machine. Maybe within just the long run it’s going to do even superior within just individuals areas, however for at present it can be a remarkable way in the direction of organize and pay attention toward your music and films, and is devoid of peer within just that regard. The iPod’s strengths are its website visiting and purposes. If those solid extra compelling, possibly it is your ideal alternative.

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  67. If you might be however on the fence: get your beloved earphones, thoughts down in the direction of a Ideal Obtain and check with to plug them into a Zune then an iPod and view which a person seems much better to on your own, and which interface can make oneself smile a lot more. Then you can know which is straight for on your own.

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  71. The clean Zune browser is remarkably Excellent, nonetheless not as favourable as the iPod’s. It operates nicely, yet isn’t as prompt as Safari, and is made up of a clunkier interface. If yourself sometimes system upon employing the net browser that’s not an issue, nonetheless if you’re planning toward study the website alot versus your PMP then the iPod’s larger screen and improved browser could be sizeable.

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  73. I am going to machines this examine in direction of 2 models of persons: recent Zune property owners who are taking into consideration an upgrade, and folks making an attempt in direction of come to a decision concerning a Zune and an iPod. (There are other avid gamers well worth considering out there, such as the Sony Walkman X, but I anticipate this delivers on your own adequate facts in the direction of generate an aware choice of the Zune vs gamers other than the iPod line as well.)

  74. Hi just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a few of the pictures aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different web browsers and both show the same outcome.

  75. Fingers down, Apple’s application keep wins by a mile. It really is a massive conclusion of all styles of programs vs a instead sad amount of a handful for Zune. Microsoft consists of Designs, particularly in just the realm of video games, nevertheless I’m not yes I’d require in the direction of guess upon the long run if this characteristic is crucial in direction of by yourself. The iPod is a a lot better final decision inside of that case.

  76. I have recently started a blog, the info you offer on this site has helped me tremendously. Thanks for all of your time & work. „If you would know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees.“ by Hal Borland.

  77. Apple at present includes Rhapsody as an app, which is a excellent start off, still it is at the moment hampered by the incapacity toward retailer regionally upon your iPod, and consists of a dismal 64kbps little bit selling price. If this variations, then it will fairly negate this advantage for the Zune, nevertheless the 10 audio for each thirty day period will even now be a substantial furthermore inside Zune Pass‘ favor.

  78. If you might be nevertheless on the fence: grab your favored earphones, mind down in the direction of a Least difficult Obtain and talk to to plug them into a Zune then an iPod and perspective which a person appears improved in direction of yourself, and which interface creates oneself smile excess. Then you can realize which is specifically for oneself.

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  80. Involving me and my partner we have owned much more MP3 players over the a long time than I can depend, together with Sansas, iRivers, iPods (classic & touch), the Ibiza Rhapsody, and many others. But, the closing few decades I’ve fixed down in direction of 1 line of gamers. Why? Considering that I was delighted towards take a look at how well-designed and enjoyment in the direction of employ the service of the underappreciated (and extensively mocked) Zunes are.

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  82. Apple currently contains Rhapsody as an application, which is a great begin, yet it is presently hampered via the inability toward store locally on your iPod, and is made up of a dismal 64kbps bit cost. If this adjustments, then it will fairly negate this usefulness for the Zune, nevertheless the Ten audio for every month will nonetheless be a significant additionally inside of Zune Pass‘ favor.

  83. Amongst me and my spouse we’ve owned a lot more MP3 avid gamers in excess of the several years than I can rely, such as Sansas, iRivers, iPods (classic & touch), the Ibiza Rhapsody, and so forth. But, the closing handful of decades I have solved down to a single line of avid gamers. Why? Mainly because I was joyful to investigate how well-designed and enjoyment to employ the service of the underappreciated (and greatly mocked) Zunes are.

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  86. Zune and iPod: Utmost persons evaluate the Zune in direction of the Touch, nevertheless at the time viewing how thin and astonishingly minor and mild it is, I test it in direction of be a as an alternative unique hybrid that brings together features of possibly the Touch and the Nano. It is rather colourful and stunning OLED screen is a little bit more compact than the contact screen, still the player alone feels Extremely a bit smaller and lighter. It weighs in excess of 2/3 as significantly, and is noticeably smaller in just width and peak, When being just a hair thicker.

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  88. Hands down, Apple’s application retailer wins by a mile. It is really a enormous number of all types of apps vs a fairly not happy range of a handful for Zune. Microsoft includes packages, in particular inside the realm of video games, nevertheless I’m not absolutely sure I would require in direction of wager upon the long run if this portion is significant to you. The iPod is a considerably far better choice in just that circumstance.

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  90. Apple already has Rhapsody as an application, which is a best get started, still it is at present hampered by the lack of ability towards store domestically upon your iPod, and consists of a dismal 64kbps little bit cost. If this improvements, then it will to some degree negate this usefulness for the Zune, however the Ten tunes per thirty day period will continue to be a substantial as well as in Zune Pass‘ favor.

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  93. Zune and iPod: Optimum americans examine the Zune in direction of the Contact, still once seeing how skinny and remarkably very little and light-weight it is, I take into account it towards be a alternatively special hybrid that combines qualities of equally the Touch and the Nano. It is Really colorful and gorgeous OLED show is a little smaller than the touch screen, nevertheless the player itself feels Incredibly a bit lesser and lighter. It weighs pertaining to 2/3 as substantially, and is noticeably scaled-down inside of width and top, although being exactly a hair thicker.

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