Retrospective includes features, shorts, and sidebar Pedro Costa Selects, spotlighting influential works by Jacques Tourneur, Paulo Rocha, Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, and others; Horse Money opens July 18

Director appearances at select screenings

New York, NY (June 18, 2015) – The Film Society of Lincoln Center announced today Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: The Films of Pedro Costa, from July 17-23. The series precedes the opening of the Portuguese auteur’s long-awaited, “hauntingly beautiful” (Variety) new film, Horse Money, which played last fall at the 52nd New York Film Festival and opens theatrically at the Film Society on July 18.

Born in Lisbon in 1959, Costa is now widely regarded as one of the most important artists on the international film scene. This retrospective includes the eight features and handful of remarkable shorts that he has made since the late 1980s. The series will also include a special sidebar Pedro Costa Selects, which includes works that influenced him while making Horse Money. The carte blanche selections include work by Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet—subjects of his 2001 documentary Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie?—and fellow Portuguese masters Paulo Rocha and António Reis, who was Costa’s teacher at film school.

“Pedro Costa is nothing less than a contemporary master. Simply put, nobody makes films like him—both in terms of his radical methodology and the ravishing results,” says FSLC Director of Programming Dennis Lim. “The release of his latest, Horse Money, occasions a guided tour through Pedro’s career by the man himself, including all his features to date as well as the thrillingly diverse set of movies he was thinking about while completing his new masterwork. The chance to engage with the entire oeuvre of an artist of this stature promises to be revelatory.”

Costa turned to moviemaking at a period when Portugal was coming to grim terms with its colonial legacy. It was in part from his original, unorthodox ways of watching the work of some filmmaking masters—Yasujiro Ozu, Straub-Huillet, Jean-Luc Godard, Robert Bresson, and Jacques Tourneur, to name a few—that Costa found a vocabulary with which to confront his country’s past. Labels slide off his movies: they are “formalist,” yet they pulse with life and warmth; they are ascetic but also deeply expressive; they are patient and yet possessed of a powerful momentum and a strong sense of rhythm. Costa once said: “If you don’t risk yourself and the people with whom you’re working in almost every shot you make, it’s not good, it’s useless, it’s just another film.”

Since his second feature, Casa de Lava (1994), Costa’s films have been anchored in two related places: the Cape Verde archipelago and Fontainhas, the slum in which many people from that former Portuguese colony found themselves after moving to Lisbon. It was in Fontainhas that Costa shot In Vanda’s Room (2001), now a landmark in the history of docu-fiction cinema. By that time, the neighborhood was already in the late stages of demolition, and in Costa’s work since it has been a ghostly, burnt-out presence. His two recent features Colossal Youth and Horse Money, both starring the nonprofessional actor Ventura, are among the glories of modern cinema. On the occasion of the U.S. release of Costa’s latest, Horse Money, we are proud to present a comprehensive survey of this modern master’s cinematic world.

Tickets will go on sale Thursday, July 2. Single screening tickets are $14; $11 for students and seniors (62+); and $9 for Film Society members. See more and save with the All Access Pass or 3+ film discount package. Visit for more information.
Cinemateca Portuguesa; OPTEC; Qualia Films; Cultural Services of the French Embassy, NY; Institut Français, Paris


All Blossoms Again / Tout refleurit: Pedro Costa, cinéaste
Aurélien Gerbault, France, 2006, digital projection, 78m

Echoing the strategies Costa used in Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie?, this rare personal portrait of the filmmaker follows him during the production of Colossal Youth, visiting the Fontainhas neighborhood where his trilogy takes place, and spends hours in the editing room while expounding his views on the current state of cinema.

Screening with:

Our Man / O Nosso Homem
Pedro Costa, Portugal, 2010, digital projection, 21m
Portuguese with English subtitles

For the last of the three shorts he made as appendices to Colossal Youth, Costa sculpted scenes and plot strands from his previous two shorts (The Rabbit Hunters and Tarrafal) into a startling new shape. You could see these movies as a secret fourth entry in Costa’s Fontainhas trilogy: a passionate, unflinching, embittered account of the state of Cape Verdean immigrants in modern Lisbon.
Sunday, July 19, 9:00pm

Casa de Lava
Pedro Costa, Portugal/France/Germany, 1994, DCP, 110m
Portuguese and Cape Verdean Creole with English subtitles

The colonial histories of Cape Verde—and the lives many of that country’s displaced emigrants now lead in Lisbon—have taken a central role in many of Costa’s recent films, but his rarely seen second feature is the only one of his movies thus far to have actually been shot in the archipelago. Leão (Isaach de Bankolé), the comatose laborer whose removal to his home at Fogo jump-starts the film, is a clear precursor to Ventura, with whom he shares a profession and a past. But the revelation of watching the movie now is how much fierce, unblinking attention it gives to the colonists themselves: Edith Scob as an aging Portuguese woman who has made the island her ill-fitting home; Pedro Hestnes as her son; and Inês de Medeiros as the Lisbon nurse who accompanies Leão with a mixture of brashness and fear. Casa de Lava, for which Costa took inspiration from Tourneur’s I Walked with a Zombie, is one of the director’s most direct reckonings with Portugal’s colonial legacy.
Friday, July 17, 4:00pm & 9:30pm (Introduction by Pedro Costa at the 9:30pm screening)

Colossal Youth / Juventude em Marcha
Pedro Costa, Portugal/France/Switzerland, 2006, DCP, 155m
Portuguese with English subtitles

Being together again will brighten our lives for at least 30 years. Costa combined the letters home of various Cape Verdean immigrants and a note written by the surrealist poet Robert Desnos to his wife shortly before his death to produce the text of the letter at the center of one of his richest, most staggeringly complex films. Its author is Ventura, an aging Cape Verdean immigrant who spends his days visiting the residents of a neighborhood that no longer exists. His wife has left him; his “children,” as he calls them, have mostly been relocated to sterile housing projects; and it is in the letter he recites throughout the movie that his hopes have all been packed. Colossal Youth was a second leap forward for Costa after the groundbreaking In Vanda’s Room. It now seems that this shadowy, profoundly sad ghost story permitted him to move from the geographically rooted studies of Fontainhas to the abstract, jagged mental spaces in which his most recent work takes place.
Sunday, July 19, 5:30pm (Q&A with Pedro Costa)

In Vanda’s Room / No Quarto da Vanda
Pedro Costa, Portugal/Germany/Switzerland, 2000, 35mm, 170m
Portuguese with English subtitles

“The normal way of making films is all wrong,” Costa recalled having realized on the set of Ossos. “We should rethink all of it.” And rethink it he did. In Vanda’s Room, which Costa made in Fontainhas with a two-person crew and in close collaboration with the movie’s handful of nonprofessional stars, is a landmark in modern cinema. For nearly three hours, we watch Vanda and her sister shooting up, coughing, laughing, talking, and going about their days as bulldozers and construction equipment rumble ominously around them. (When Costa came back to Fontainhas with a portable video camera, the neighborhood was already being razed.) But we are also watching a seamless convergence of fiction and nonfiction, a thrilling dilation and expansion of cinematic time, and the discovery of a new, immensely rich visual vocabulary unique to the digital image (here printed onto 35mm film): its way of capturing natural light and the movement of bodies, here and now. It is to a certain strand of contemporary cinema as the discovery of perspective was to painting: the movie that made a generation of filmmakers rethink the terms of their art.
Saturday, July 18, 6:00pm (Q&A with Pedro Costa)

Ne Change Rien
Pedro Costa, Portugal/France, 2009, 35mm, 100m
French with English subtitles, English

Costa’s second nonfiction work about an artist’s creative process (after Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie?), this shimmering, casually seductive portrait of Jeanne Balibar follows the singer as she and her band rehearse new songs, record better-honed performances, and move on and off the stage. Ne Change Rien is the only one of Costa’s digital films to be shot in black and white, and in its luminous, precise compositions, light and shadow play off each other like the dominant and counter melodies in a song. What’s most striking about the movie, though, is Costa’s delicate feeling for the start-stop, rewinding rhythms of jam sessions, recording sessions, and rehearsals, and the way a few musical phrases—listen for the haunting chorus of “Peine Perdue”—echo throughout the movie with a quiet, suggestive force. An NYFF47 selection.
Saturday, July 18, 9:30pm (Introduction by Pedro Costa)

O Sangue
Pedro Costa, Portugal, 1989, 35mm, 95m
Portuguese with English subtitles

Admirers of Costa’s recent work are often thrown for a thrilling loop by the glossy, liquid textures and lush atmospherics of the director’s first feature, a beguiling fairy tale about the trials undergone by two brothers in the wake of their father’s violent death. Costa, who was barely 30 when O Sangue premiered, had spent the seven years leading up to its production immersing himself in the films of Fritz Lang, Kenji Mizoguchi, Robert Bresson, Jacques Tourneur, and Nicholas Ray. But the film, which begins with a slap to the face, is never less than a bracingly original stream of images and impressions: a nocturnal journey through a brittle forest; a burst of fireworks seen from the balcony of a ghostly hotel; a glittering fairground dream scored to a rhapsodic pop song. “O Sangue,” Costa said in a 2006 interview, “was also the beginning of my love—maybe love is the wrong word—for domestic cinema. A kind of cinema that shows how people live.”
Saturday, July 18, 4:00pm
Monday, July 20, 4:00pm

Pedro Costa, Portugal/France/Denmark, 1997, 35mm, 94m
Portuguese with English subtitles

Near the end of the emotionally and physically trying shoot of Casa de Lava, a handful of Cape Verdeans asked Costa to deliver bundles of letters to their émigré relatives in Lisbon. Fontainhas, the marginalized ghetto where he found many of those letters’ addressees, would become the geographic and spiritual center of his next three films. Ossos, which starred two residents of the neighborhood as young parents in crisis and a third, Vanda, as the wiser woman in their orbit, was the last of Costa’s features to be shot on celluloid and with a full crew. “The normal way of making films,” he realized during the movie’s production, was “all wrong” for these people and this place. But Ossos, taken on its own, is a deeply powerful, endlessly evocative accomplishment: “a nineteenth-century feuilleton,” as the critic Luc Sante put it, “filtered through the ambiguities of our time and executed with a mesmerizing delicacy.”
Friday, July 17, 6:30pm (Q&A with Pedro Costa)
Wednesday, July 22, 5:00pm

Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie? / Où gît votre sourire enfoui?
Pedro Costa, France/Portugal, 2001, 35mm, 104m
French and Italian with English subtitles

The films of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, whose body of co-directed work spanned four decades and whose masterworks include The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach, Moses and Aaron, and Class Relations, are among Costa’s deepest and widest influences. In 2000, Straub and Huillet decided to create a new version of their film Sicilia! with the art students at Le Fresnoy in France. Filming the couple in a stripped-down editing room, Costa focuses on uncovering their actual working relationship: Straub, easily distracted and prone to lengthy philosophical asides to justify his ideas about the film; Huillet, more focused and practical, challenging him to make up his mind and move forward. There are moments of great humor, as well as great tenderness, in this revealing study of two of modern cinema’s most intrepid pioneers.
Sunday, July 19, 1:30pm
Thursday, July 23, 6:30pm (Q&A with Pedro Costa)

Pedro Costa Selects

Costa enrolled in film school during a period when older European and Hollywood films were just starting to screen at Lisbon’s cinematheque, and his explorative, far-reaching moviegoing habits would come to have a profound effect on his filmmaking practice. Certain of Costa’s cinematic inheritances come out in his movies explicitly: the films of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet; the work of his teacher António Reis; the colonial fairy tales of Jacques Tourneur, to name a few. Others migrate into his work in subtler ways: his films’ luminously shot lone figures recall those of John Ford; their stretches of carefully parsed-out dead time suggest moments in Hawks; and their warm, tactile surfaces echo those that fill the movies of Paulo Rocha. But if there’s a single common denominator between Costa’s filmmaking and his taste in films, it’s his attraction to the marginalized, ghostly, forgotten, and overlooked: in movies no less than in people, places, and stories. The selections Costa made for this special carte blanche sidebar series were all, in various ways, on his mind during the making of Horse Money. Taken together, they give—like that film—a haunting, suggestive, and often distressing picture of life and labor in the 20th century.

The Fearmakers
Jacques Tourneur, USA, 1958, 35mm, 85m

The “fearmakers” referenced in the title of Jacques Tourneur’s rarely screened Red Scare thriller are communist elements that, having wormed their way into a major Washington PR firm, go about trying to convert the American public away from their capitalist roots. Dana Andrews, who stars as a brainwashed Korean War vet alert to the dark secret of the firm to which he’s just returned, had worked with Tourneur on Night of the Demon the previous year, and it was he who insisted that Tourneur be brought on to direct The Fearmakers. What attracted the filmmaker to the project was, he later suggested, a theme that he’d been dealing with explicitly since at least I Walked with a Zombie: “the power of people who control ideas.”
Saturday, July 18, 2:00pm
Wednesday, July 22, 9:15pm

The Green Years / Os Verdes Anos
Paulo Rocha, Portugal, 1963, DCP, 91m
Portuguese with English subtitles

Widely considered the founding text of the New Portuguese Cinema, Rocha’s coming-of-age film reflected a new attitude in the wake of post-Salazar modernization of urban life in the 1960s. Nineteen-year-old Julio heads to Lisbon from the provinces and gets a job as a shoemaker for his uncle Raul. But when he meets Ilda, a confident young housemaid who becomes a regular shop visitor, his working-class values collide with the bourgeois trappings of modern life. Rocha subverts melodramatic conventions by avoiding easy psychology or clearly defined goals, and favors mise-en-scène over narrative, reflecting a country at odds with its national character.
Wednesday, July 22, 7:00pm (Introduction by Pedro Costa)

Land of the Pharaohs
Howard Hawks, USA, 1955, 35mm, 105m

Immense crowd scenes, luxurious costuming, and extravagant set pieces that devolved into logistical nightmares: Howard Hawks’s big-budget epic about the building of the pyramids was the severest, most costly flop of his career. Praised early and prophetically by Cahiers du Cinéma, Land of the Pharaohs would emerge as one of the most fascinating movies of Hawks’s productive career. A cult classic for its overheated passion and high-camp dialogue (courtesy of, among other screenwriters, William Faulkner), it also ranks among the most revealing self-exposés in Hollywood cinema: a product of enormous organized labor that doubles as a wild, dramatic staging of precisely that kind of labor gone excessive and awry.
Tuesday, July 21, 4:00pm
Thursday, July 23, 9:15pm

Not Reconciled / Nicht versöhnt oder Es hilft nur Gewalt wo Gewalt herrscht
Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet, West Germany, 1965, 35mm, 55m
German with English subtitles

“I have to say,” Pedro Costa remarked in a 2014 interview about Horse Money, “[that] this film owes a lot to Not Reconciled. It doesn’t compare. It’s a film I always love more and more . . . it’s the most violent, concrete piece of present you can have on screen.” Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet’s first major film introduced their grippingly sparse, elliptical style to international audiences. Adapted from Heinrich Böll’s 1958 novel Billiards at Half-Past Nine, Not Reconciled brought an intense sense of the present to the narrative of three architects reckoning with their family’s traumatic wartime history. “You cannot place the characters except in those bureaus, post offices, or hotels,” Costa insisted about the film. “It’s never the past.”

Screening with:

6 Bagatelas
Pedro Costa, France/Portugal, 2001, digital projection, 18m
French with English subtitles

It was from Ozu that Costa claimed to have gotten the idea of “making a domestic, neighborhood cinema and trying to concentrate on small things.” Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, however, were the filmmakers on whom he put that idea into practice. A companion piece to Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie?, 6 Bagatelas shows the aging couple in a more relaxed domestic setting than the full-length film: hanging out, puttering around, and drifting into and out of their work. Over the course of the movie’s 18 minutes, you can see Costa developing and refining his strategies—already magnificently worked out in In Vanda’s Room—for catching the rhythms of domestic life.
Sunday, July 19, 3:45pm
Thursday, July 23, 4:30pm

Daïnah la métisse
Jean Grémillon, France, 1932, 35mm, 51m
French with English subtitles

The relentlessly daring experimental French filmmaker Jean Grémillon, who made the bulk of his films before and during the Second World War, asked to have his name taken off the released cut of this mesmerizing, deeply unsettling work—his second sound film—after Gaumont hacked it to nearly half its original length. The beautiful Daïnah is a métisse: a mixed-race young woman married to a black magician who lives and works on a luxury ocean liner. One night, she meets a mechanic whose interest in her will lead to tragedy. Daïnah la métisse is a gritty, sinister fairy tale in the strong French fantastique tradition—its unforgettable magic show scene rivals that of George Franju’s Judex—with an attentiveness, characteristic of Grémillon, to the lives of the marginalized and under-noticed. Print courtesy of Institut Français, Paris. 
Tuesday, July 21, 9:15pm (Introduction by Pedro Costa)

António Reis & Margarida Cordeiro, Portugal, 1976, 35mm, 108m
Portuguese with English subtitles

This documentary-fiction hybrid was a major influence on the rebirth of Portuguese cinema, and a landmark in ethnographic filmmaking. Reis and Cordeiro spent a year in the titular region (“beyond the mountains”) in northwest Portugal, filming landscapes and villages and making friends with their peasant subjects, who offer a heady blend of folklore as much as they physically guide us through their evocative surroundings. As observed reality coincides with the persistent murmurings of myth, the flux of life and flow of stories intermingle, creating a palimpsestic merging of past and present. Jean Rouch proclaimed that Reis and Cordeiro had “revealed a new cinematographic language,” and the film is a clear predecessor to Costa’s own blend of verbal folklore with direct cinema, using form to investigate an entire country’s collective unconscious.
Tuesday, July 21, 6:30pm (Q&A with Pedro Costa)


Friday, July 17
4:00pm CASA DE LAVA (110min)
6:30pm OSSOS (94min) + Q&A with Pedro Costa
9:30pm CASA DE LAVA (110min) + Introduction by Pedro Costa

Saturday, July 18
2:00pm THE FEARMAKERS (85m)
4:00pm O SANGUE (95min)
6:00pm IN VANDA'S ROOM (170min) + Q&A with Pedro Costa
9:30pm NE CHANGE RIEN (100min) + Introduction by Pedro Costa

Sunday, July 19
3:45pm NOT RECONCILED (55m) + 6 BAGATELAS (18m)
5:30pm COLOSSAL YOUTH (155min) + Q&A with Pedro Costa
9:00pm ALL BLOSSOMS AGAIN (78m) + OUR MAN (21min)

Monday, July 20
4:00pm O SANGUE (95min)

Tuesday, July 21
4:00pm LAND OF THE PHARAOHS (105m)
6:30pm TRÁS-OS-MONTES (108 min) + Q&A with Pedro Costa
9:15pm DAÏNAH LA METISES (51m) + Introduction by Pedro Costa

Wednesday, July 22
5:00pm OSSOS (94m)
7:00pm THE GREEN YEARS (91m) + Introduction by Pedro Costa
9:15pm THE FEARMAKERS (85m)

Thursday, July 23
3:45pm NOT RECONCILED (55m) + 6 BAGATELAS (18m)
6:30pm WHERE DOES YOUR HIDDEN SMILE LIE? (104min) + Q&A with Pedro Costa
9:15pm LAND OF THE PHARAOHS (105m)

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