About how beautiful sombreness and decay can be. The old Cape Verdean Ventura is sad about his wife Clotilde who ran away. He writes her a choking letter. The poverty stricken district of Fontaínhas in Lisbon is portrayed as an ominous backdrop. Connoisseurs deemed the film the real winner at Cannes.
An austere and original masterpiece that takes its time for everything and in which repetition has become an almost oppressive stylistic form. The film is set in the Fontaínhas district of Lisbon in a community of people from the Cape Verde Islands. The protagonist is the older, melancholy and defeated Ventura. After being married for 34 years his wife Clotilde has left him and he now looks back on a harsh and cheerless life. Ventura writes her a letter (or better, has it written) that is heartrending in its inept despair. Time and again, he recites the letter while he is about to be cut out of his district and moved into a bare apartment.
The pictures of the interiors look as if they have been put in a vice by Costa and the amateur actors seem to have been forced to watch Bresson. It is easy to see that Costa recently (2001) made a beautiful documentary about Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet. Jim Hoberman (Village Voice) called Colossal Youth an ‘exercise in Straubian neorealism’. This does not mean that Costa does not make his own stylistic contribution: the film is original at every level.
The art-house film has become an international genre, but Costa withdraws from the aesthetic and psychological aspects of these films. He doesn’t look for beauty and understanding. He is, rather, looking for the meridian of viewing. (GjZ)