#11 Colossal Youth (dir: Pedro Costa, 2006)
I have honestly never seen anything quite like Pedro Costa’s Colossal Youth (2006), and with years of film viewing experience that’s really saying something. The universe of film is made up of all sorts of strange and wonderful titles. My heart lies in genre cinema (give me John Carpenter over Godard any day of the week – apart from Le Mepris), but sometimes a filmmaker or work comes along who seems to be doing something truly unique and inspiring with the language of moving images. And one must taken notice.
Last year, Eureka Entertainment released Colossal Youth as part of their Masters of Cinema series and it felt like a revelation upon seeing it. Critic Jonathan Rosenbaum might have been getting carried away describing it as ‘the future of cinema’ but I could understand the attitude. Colossal Youth isn’t the future of cinema – it would scare most people to death if you told them so – for we’ve settled into a very definite and overly commercial idea of what film is. When somebody comes along and challenges this assumption, they’ll get called a crank.
Costa’s film tells of immigrant workers and their daily lives and how they both feel alienated and fit into their surroundings. It is devoid of sentimentality and all the usual trappings one usually finds in these sorts of films. And just because it doesn’t romanticise anything neither is it looking down. Experimental and poignant, there have only been a few times in my life where I would describe a viewing experience as a ‘revelation’ in that near biblical sort of tone. Only Bruno Dumont and maybe Michelangelo Antonioni’s work has done it to me.
And if you think Dumont’s work is minimalist then you haven’t seen a Pedro Costa film. Some might accuse the director of anti-cinema or counter-cinema posturing, but they’d be dead wrong. Instead he proves that even the most simple of setups and shots can be rich with action and meaning. He also uses shots that force the viewer to fill in the blanks – something Dumont has experimented in with Hors Satan. It’s not new particularly, but it’s how the technique has been used which provides the striking tone. At various points, Colossal Youth becomes hypnotic.
In a review I wrote how the film would deliberately test your patience and even understanding what cinema is and can be. So if you’re up for the challenge then do see Costa’s film. My friend and Cinemart contributor, Laura Ivins-Hulley, got to meet and have lunch with Costa last year … and see all his films. This made me very jealous, of course!
The Top Twenty Films Challenge is an inter-blog daily feature between myself and Laurent di Alberti at FilmLand Empire blog. Each of us will reveal our Top 20 favourite films. On Monday 2nd July Laurent revealed his 11th favourite, Eric Rohmer’s Full Moon in Paris. For the other Cinemart entries click here: Top Twenty Films Challenge.