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“Night is practically eternal in Vitalina Varela, the new picture from the Portuguese master Pedro Costa. In this vision, the barrios of Fontainhas, in Lisbon, where much of Costa’s work has been set and shot, seem to have mostly migrated underground. (In reality, the barrios have been so transformed over the years that they no longer exist as such.) The movie’s opening shot is exemplary: a beautifully framed (in the almost square Academy ratio) view of an alleyway, the curve of the gray wall on its left creating a visually attractive angle. At the top of the frame, black; it’s a submerged alley, and at the top right you can see some crosses planted in the ground above. Some men come through the space; it’s a funeral procession.”
“It is not inaccurate to call Costa an acquired taste. In the case of this reviewer, it was a road to Damascus experience with the 2007 film Colossal Youth, which required a second viewing to yield its epiphany. Like that picture, Vitalina Varela is socially conscious, but dreamlike, elegiac. And an inquiry, too, into the abilities and deficiencies of film as a medium to illuminate human consciousness and experience. It’s essential cinema.” – Glenn Kenny in the New York Times
In Portuguese, with English subtitles.