Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Take Me to the River

O Sangue (1989) - Costa
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The film starts with a face slap in the middle of rural road. Dying father hides his illness from his young sons. But Vicente (Pedro Hestnes) is growing up too fast and knows what's going on. He in turn, tries to shield the truth from his sickly younger brother Nino (Nuno Ferreira). "He went away and you will never see him again," Vicente announces after finding an empty hole and burying his father in the cemetery at night with the help of his childhood sweetheart, now a school helper Clara (Inês de Medeiros). The brothers' uncle from Lisbon tries to take Nino away and Vicente attacks him. But gangsters whom his dead father owes money to comes after Vicente and the uncle takes Nino to the city. Clara first needs to get Nino back, then Vicente.

Shot rapturously in monochrome with old timey music, O Sangue feels like watching a fairy tale story from the silent era. You can tell that Costa is a good student of old films- the lyricism in O Sangue evokes those of Jean Epstein, Jean Vigo, Jacques Tourneur and Robert Bresson (especially Four Nights and a Dreamer). Beautiful moments between our two young lovers, always by the river at night, are interrupted by deaths - one such scene even reminds me of foggy boat ride in Ugetsu. Look and feel-wise, it also has much in common with Leos Carax (another good student of old films)'s equally stunning debut, Boy Meets Girl. The loneliness he portrays at the balconies on New Year's Eve is just as picturesque as the rest of the film. At once melancholic and optimistic, old and new (there is a dance party near the river where they play 80s dance music), Costa's sodden poetic images and lost but determined souls have magical power to move you. It's an astonishingly beautiful film. Definitely the top 100 material.

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