Pedro Costa’s Colossal Youth

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Colossal Youth, by Pedro Costa, 155min, 2006.

“Nha cretchea, my love, meeting again will brighten our lives for at least 30 years. I’ll return to you renewed and full of strength. I wish I could offer you 100,000 cigarettes, a dozen fancy new dresses, a car, the little lava house you always dreamed of, and a 40 cent bouquet. But most of all, drink a bottle of good wine and think of me.” -Ventura

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Pedro Costa’s 2006 film, Colossal Youth is one of those sadly misunderstood films whose length and pace have a tendency to (intentionally) distance itself from people. The dream-like sadness of the disenfranchised immigrants depicted in Colossal Youth is pretty potent, something only authentically captured from people who have no purpose in the world they live in, but instead float vagrantly from space to space, with nothing but fond memories of the past to occupy their minds.

Colossal Youth, by Pedro Costa, 155min, 2006.

"Nha cretchea, my love, meeting again will brighten our lives for at least 30 years.  I'll return to you renewed and full of strength.  I wish I could offer you 100,000 cigarettes, a dozen fancy new dresses, a car, the little lava house you always dreamed of, and a 40 cent bouquet. But most of all, drink a bottle of good wine and think of me."  -Ventura

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlHBq86OIPg

Pedro Costa's 2006 film, Colossal Youth is one of those sadly misunderstood films whose length and pace have a tendency to (intentionally) distance itself from people.  The dream-like sadness of the disenfranchised immigrants depicted in Colossal Youth is pretty potent, something only authentically captured from people who have no purpose in the world they live in, but instead float vagrantly from space to space, with nothing but fond memories of the past to occupy their minds.

I saw this film in its entirety a few days ago, and the more I think about it, the more sad I get, and the more I identify with it.  The camera follows a man, whom we eventually learn is named Ventura, who appears to be homeless or at least a drifter, as he migrates to the various homes and meeting places of his children.  At least, he calls them his children, but their actual familial relationships remain a mystery as we eventually see lives overlap and eventually begin to question the narrative reliability and chronology of the film. 

I even began to get the feeling that Ventura didn't even really exist, but instead was this embodiment of the past, depression and longing, who visited unannounced upon various characters in the Lisbon slums – from Vanda, a mother sick with lung cancer, to Lento, a man who set fire to his mattress and jumped out of his window.  Sometimes he would descend on them in a comforting, fatherly manner, other times as an enabler, and sometimes Ventura was altogether ignored.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnSMbYzVrYE&feature=related

The slow pacing of the film gives it a surreal existence, it becomes something outside of reality, a place where time does not move, where eventualities never happen: it becomes a purgatory between the past and the present that the characters can't escape. 

And of course, this film is exemplifying just one example of a set of people adrift.  This genre of humanity exists all over the world. Colossal Youth just happens to take place in Portugal, but could have easily been filmed on the south side of Chicago, in a refugee camp in Haiti, or in the Gaza Strip. 

Colossal Youth makes me sad because it depicts people at their most disheartened, void of purpose and hope, simply existing aimlessly.  Colossal Youth forces all who see it to remember that these people, however depressingly, still exist.  The quote at the beginning of this post is (assumedly) a letter from Ventura to his long-gone wife, and throughout the film he repeats it, almost as a tether to a far distant past.  Soon, his tender words turn sour and the letter becomes a haunting refrain of a man who can no longer exist in the present, but instead is constantly in a state of perpetual nodding-off.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avIMH82Rqt0&feature=related

In Colossal Youth, Costa manages to create a cinematic experience that is at once dream-like and all too real.