Pedro Costa
from 24 March 2020
until 31 March 2020
Jeu de Paume, Paris

Pedro Costa (1958, Portugal) is a filmmaker who occupies a unique position, at once powerful and shifting, in the world of cinema: his work stands at the intersection of rigorous documentary recording – where “everything is true,” as he says of his latest film, Vitalina Varela, winner of the Golden Leopard at the last Locarno Festival – and a formalist approach in which framing, duration, light and colour constitute an expressionist style.

This retrospective and homage to the director offers the chance to see an eminently contemporary body of work and to assess the career of an artist for whom each film seems to constitute an intense adventure that questions and reinvents the aesthetic, poetic and political potential of the cinematic tool.

For the great majority of directors, and even in the minds of viewers, to make a film is to turn on the lights so that the show can begin, the actors can do their thing and the camera work its magic. For Pedro Costa, the process of finding his cinema, his method, meant the opposite: turning out the lights. One night, while shooting Ossos, it was clear that the light didn’t mean anything – in fact, it was even a contradiction. In the poor district of Fontainhas, near Lisbon, which he was trying to film and claimed to love, the spotlights were keeping the residents from sleeping. These people who got up at four o’clock, five o’clock in the morning, the light was blinding them, the light was telling them that cinema was more important than their sleep, that cinema couldn’t care less about their tiredness as workers, as masons, as cleaning women, as street vendors, as parents or grandparents, that cinema couldn’t give a toss. Worse, he was playing at solidarity, at empathy. This opened up a chasm beneath Costa’s feet. It was obvious now: a film and the way it is shot must say the same thing.

What the Jeu de Paume is offering is, in a sense, a tour of the painter’s studio, his youthful works, his sketches, his preparatory studies, his parallel research and his influences, too, as part of this carte blanche which brings together, among others, his former teacher and mentor António Reis and the icon of Cinema Novo, Paulo Rocha.

Programming: Catherine Bizern and Pedro Costa
Cycle organised in collaboration with the Festival Cinéma du Réel and in coproduction with the Fondation Calouste Gulbenkian, Paris.