EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|IN VANDA'S ROOM (NO QUARTO DA VANDA) (director/writer: Pedro Costa; cinematographer: Pedro Costa; editors: Dominique Auvray/Patricia Saramago; cast: Vanda Duarte (Herself), Lena Duarte (Herself), Zita Duarte (Herself); Runtime: 171; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Karl Baumgartner/Andres Pfäffli/Francisco Villa-Lobos; Criterion Collection; 2000-Portugal-in Portuguese with English subtitles)|
slow moving and
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Portuguese director Pedro Costa ("Ossos"/"Colossal Youth"/"Casa De Lava") presents his second feature in his Fountainhas Trilogy. Costa goes this time for a smaller and less intrusive crew to film inside the Lisbon ghetto (Fountainhas is populated by mostly Cape Verde immigrants) in a documentary style (with unusually long takes) and thereby gets a closer and truer look at his forlorn subjects. He also uses digital video, whereby he produces a series of evocative and haunting images in tinted greens. It's a slow moving and depressing pic that realistically depicts everyday life for some of the ghetto's self-destructive and marginalized inhabitants. The non-judgmental, scintillating look at such impoverished lives is hardly entertaining and the three-hour film leads to no great insights, but it takes the captivated viewer places that they probably have never seen before in such raw footage and for that alone it's maybe worth seeing for those who could tolerate such a tedious work.
Costa uses the thirtysomething cabbage
peddler Vanda Duarte and her relations with her
extended family and
neighbors to give the film an intimate feel.
filmmaker captures the ghetto experience through the
makes in her room, as the heroin addict smokes smack and
with her embittered sister Zita. Vanda turns a blind eye
to all the
poverty, demolition of slum homes, all the run-down and
buildings in her neighborhood, the injustice in the
evictions, the many arrests, the
petty thefts, the neighborhood
ignorance over care for their property, and the violence
in her life.
Vanda finds a
broken model ship in her street trash, which she
mistakenly thinks is a
antique but learns is only a piece of junk. Costa uses
that as a symbol
for Portugal once being a powerful colonial empire, only
be viewed as a second-rate nation in the EU whose people
suffer from an
Things look so
authentically bleak, that it might serve as a record for
to use as resource material. But in this scenario, we
don't see any of
these needy souls getting any help from government
agencies and they
are too impotent to change their lives on their own or
even move out of
The misery is done up
aesthetically, as Costa paints a Vermeer-like portrait
desperate lives filmed in the natural. Though
by society and on the wrong path, Costa is still able to
and offer us a sympathetic portrait of their plight. How
he does it,
makes him a special filmmaker. One of the few modern
bothers to get it right with such unpleasant tragic lost
most would rather ignore.
REVIEWED ON 5/11/2011 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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