A film by Pedro Costa
2019, 124 minutes
No. 251


Portuguese director Pedro Costa has continually returned in his films to the Fontainhas neighborhood, a shantytown on the outskirts of Lisbon that’s home to largely immigrant communities. Not merely a chronicler of the poor and dispossessed, Costa renders onscreen characters that exist somewhere between real and fictional, the living and the dead.

His latest, a film of deeply concentrated beauty, stars nonprofessional actor Vitalina Varela in a truly remarkable performance. Reprising and expanding upon her haunted supporting role from Costa’s Horse Money, she plays a Cape Verdean woman who has come to Fontainhas for her husband’s funeral after being separated from him for decades due to economic circumstance, and despite her alienation begins to establish a new life there.

The grief of the present and the ghosts of the past commingle in Costa’s ravishing chiaroscuro compositions, a film of shadow and whisper that might be the director’s most visually extraordinary work. (synopsis courtesy of the New York Film Festival)

Winner, Golden Leopard - Best Film, Locarno Film Festival
Winner, Best Actress, Locarno Film Festivl
Official Selection, Sundance Film Festival
Official Selection, New York Film Festival
Official Selection, Toronto Film Festival

“A ravishing masterpiece. The mystery and wonder of Pedro Costa’s filmmaking defies any specific category... Gorgeous. Transcendent." 
— Eric Kohn, Indiewire

“The best movie of the year.”
— Jonathan Rosenbaum, Sight and Sound

“Spellbinding. Dazzling. Conjures chiaroscuro wonder after chiaroscuro wonder."
— Neil Young, The Hollywood Reporter

"One of the ten best films of the year."
— James Quandt, Artforum

"A plaintive and piercingly beautiful vision... Pedro Costa is one of our planet’s two or three greatest living filmmakers."
— Christopher Small, Sight & Sound

 “Lit like a Rembrandt, acted like a neo-Realist classic. Richly familiar and profoundly unique.”
Screen Daily

"Costa has made his most beautiful, haunting film yet. Vitalina is extraordinary."
Film Comment

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