Ossos (1997)

5 08 2008

Maybe it’s just the fact that I haven’t watched a “long static shots depicting alienation” type film in a long time, but this is seriously one of the greatest films to be filed under the faux-genre. It is not unlike Tsai Ming-Liang’s films with its surreal moments of transgressive activity, but the overall mood is even more somber and more “gritty.” In fact, it also can filed under a Dardennes-style social drama but with much more mature camerawork. It can be most accurately described as poignant, static, deadpan sort of film with a sense of glue-sniffing aesthetics. Not only a great movie, but one of the most technically breathtaking achievements in all of cinema.

Teenage mom Tina has no clue what to do with her newborn baby. She seems slightly suicidal, so the baby’s father (who remains unnamed) decides to take the baby and head for the streets of Lisbon. He uses the baby as a prop for panhandling, which is how he meets a Nurse by the name of Eduard. She takes him and the baby in, and begins attending to both. Her relationship with the father doesn’t exactly blossom as he tends to keep quiet, but the tension is there.

Describing Ossos probably makes it sound a lot less interesting than it is. The plot bears some similarities to L’Enfant but only on paper. Most of the film focuses on very unassuming moments in the lives of these characters and occasionally, presents them doing some befuddling. Like Tsai, Costa seems to capture his best moments from observing superficially mundane activities. His approach will not appeal to everyone, obviously, but those who it does appeal to, know exactly who they are. In the case of Costa’s accessibility, it certainly helps that he has one of the most beautiful and captivating actresses ever in Mariya Lipkina, to perform the “mundane” activities.

That isn’t to say this is just another long static shots / alienation film, because Costa has plenty of quirks to separate his film from others. I went into this issue a bit in my review for Maria Speth’s The Days Between, which is a film that has everything right in place, but doesn’t have anything special, so to speak, to separate it from its like-minded peers. Costa, on the other hand, has plenty of things to be more than just a Tsai clone, which is fine too, by the way! If anything, he is the more innovative and experimental of the two. He has the same saturated visual look, but uses it in a much more subtle (and perhaps, more effective) manner. The lower-class setting, filled with plenty of distinct sights and sounds brings to mind the texture of Hector Babenco’s Pixote if it were as attentive as an Ulrich Kohler film. All these names may seem to downplay Costa’s unique style, but they are just desperate “starting points” for a stunned viewer.



One response

5 08 2008

I´m Portuguese, so it can sound a little suspicious, but Pedro Costa is not only one of my favourite directors but definitely one of the most challenging working right now! Is vision of cinema is true unique!
Ossos is a masterpiece but “Colossal Youth” takes it to another level!! Haunting, monumental piece of film-making!! One of the films of my life!!
I´m very proud of “my” Pedro Costa!! 🙂

Some Costa clips (and others) in my youtube channel dedicated to Portuguese cinema:

p.s. By the way, http://www.youtube.com/user/CineandStuff is my channel dedicated to Asian cinema! You can watch some Yoshida clips! 🙂


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