Locarno Review: ‘Vitalina Varela’ is One of Pedro Costa’s Most Stunning Films

A dark back-alley drowned in shadow; towering concrete walls on either side; on the top right a row of headstones overlook; the glimmer of a walking stick emerges in the distance, and then a funeral procession. 15 minutes later a women disembarks from an airplane and is greeted not by family but by the airport’s cleaning staff. “There is nothing for you in Portugal, Vitalina,” they say.

Welcome—or perhaps welcome back—to the world of Pedro Costa, the austere Portuguese director behind Colossal Youth (2006), In Vanda’s Room (2000), and other haunting works with which to grapple. His latest is titled Vitalina Varela and picks up where last year’s Horse Money left off, focusing on the eponymous character who first appeared as a supporting player in Money while also persisting in Costa’s unmistakable style: slow static shots set up like minimalist plays; stark white lighting from far above,
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