Costa paces his portrait of a dilapidated Lisbon slum to match the despondent characters drifting through it. A girl who treats suicide attempts and her infant with equal apathy; the father who contemplates selling it. Overcoming their inertia with the smallest kindness registers as a great feat of willpower.
“The mother’s injuries are to be handed down to the daughter.”
In 90 minutes, the legendary Ingrid Bergman and Liv Ullmann make us feel we’ve known this mother and daughter for their entire lives. When they watch each other play piano, you see a lifetime of unspoken strife in their eyes. When they finally let loose, they fight from the very bottom of their souls.
The maneuvers in 22-year-old Mário Peixoto’s first and only film still feel revolutionary today. He captures our hallucinating castaways by sticking the camera in the dirt, swinging it around wildly on a rickety rooftop, and shooting such extreme close-ups that a spool of thread becomes threatening.
I think Claire Denis made the best movie last year, and this one cements her as one of my favorite directors. Isabelle Hupert gives a brutally honest performance in this clear-eyed indictment of the ongoing repercussions of blood money and colonialism.