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Life in Fontainhas
To the best of my knowledge, there are no spoilers in this review, as it does not delve into a discussion of the actual plot.
This is the third feature from Portuguese director Pedro Costa, and a major turn from his previous work. It is set in the Fontainhas district of Lisbon, a slum filled with migrants and the working poor. When he visited this area, Costa was captivated by its sounds, its buildings and its people. The film does have a minimalist plot but focuses more on the atmosphere of Fontainhas as its theme. The cinematography is truly unique and beautiful and uses many long takes. The camera spends much of the running time riveted to the faces of these characters. They remain enigmas, somewhat distant from the viewer, yet the mystery is captivating. Ossos, which means "Bones" in Portuguese, is a film for adventurous viewers who are willing to forgo the typical features of dramatic plot and quick editing. Fans of the work of Robert Bresson may find similarities between his sensibilities and those of Costa in this film.
Sólo con tu pareja (1991)
Love and Hysteria
"Solo con tu pareja" or "Love in the Time of Hysteria" is an at-times outrageously funny black sex comedy from director Alfonso Cuarón. Its themes include the possibility of finding true love and the impact of AIDS on people's sex lives and psyches. This was especially timely in 1991 when AIDS was only beginning to fully enter public consciousness, but of course, it remains an important issue. The story itself, although I won't go into details, is clever and fulfilling. The performance of the cast is very good, especially Daniel Cacho, who is very believable as the perennial casanova Tomás Tomás, and Claudia Ramírez, who plays the pert, sultry flight attendant, Clarisa. Reminding me of Nabokov's Humbert Humbert, Cuarón plays with double names of many characters, including the cut-up doctor Mateos Mateos and his wife Teresa de Teresa. The editing is done in such a way that the film felt lived-in, familiar, as if life was going on inside it. For instance, the first time we meet the doctor and his wife, Tomás calls them and we see them out of the window, showing that they live in an adjacent apartment and are good friends. The cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki is beautiful, with very fine tracking shots, like the opening scene or in the woods at the wedding.