The making of cinema

Où gît votre sourire enfoui ?

Pedro Costa

2001Portugal104 minColour

Pedro Costa chose to film Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub during a master class they gave at Fresnoy, the French national research centre for contemporary art. Danièle Huillet sits at the editing machine. Jean-Marie Straub strides around the editing room. In a constant toing and froing between theory and craftsmanship, the two discuss and comment on the work that they are doing on three or four sequences from Sicilia ! 

In the work of Straub-Huillet…texts are interpreted as musical scores, the actors are asked to emphasize certain syllables. Here, the living material (actors, light, nature) is no longer directly present. What remains is a filmic material to be worked on through to its core, until “Form” is born: “First comes the idea, then the material, then the form”, Straub solemnly declares, as if it were a matter of political commitment. A sentence that resonates like a Bressonian aphorism, before he adds “The rest is just filling”. The two partners’ gruff voices, appended to the images kneaded by the editing table, resonate in the dark space of their workroom. The fixity of the shots (Costa’s stylistic hallmark) is like a visual and temporal prolon­gation of their rigour and patience. In the image, something other than the monitor draws our attention: in the door frame, Straub puts on his show. The two frames are close together and, in this dark room – which is a familiar setting for the Portuguese director – a magnificent work area and a superb portrait of the filmmakers emerge. In proximity (our nose is up against the filmic material) and at a distance ( full of humour: “Be quiet, Straub!”), in the couple’s unity and confrontation, this “comedy of remontage” closely follows the filmmakers’ perseverance to gradually bring about a form, with a smile in their eyes, and reveal the true nature of cinema­tographic emotion. 
–Amélie Dubois (Les Inrockuptibles, Janvier 2003) 

While studying history at University of Lisbon, Costa switched to film courses at Lisbon Theatre and Film School (Escola Superior de Teatro e Cinema) where he was a student of António Reis, Paulo Rocha and Alberto Seixas Santos. He made a first feature film O Sangue (The Blood) in 1989.
He collected the France Culture Award (Foreign Cineaste of the Year) at 2002 Cannes Film Festival for directing the film In Vanda's RoomColossal Youth was selected for the 2006 Cannes Film Festival[2] and earned the Independent/Experimental prize (Los Angeles Film Critics Association) in 2008.