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Vitalina Varela

Portuguese maestro Pedro Costa returns with another poetic portrait of Lisbon’s Cape Verdean community, focusing on one woman’s sorrows and survivor spirit.

Dir Pedro Costa
Prod Abel Ribeiro Chaves
Scr Pedro Costa, Vitalina Varela
With Vitalina Varela, Manuel Tavares Almeida, Francisco Brito
Portugal
2019
124min
Prod Co OPTEC
With English subtitles

In Pedro Costa’s 2014 drama Horse Money, Vitalina Varela made a memorable appearance, effectively playing herself. In this follow-up – less a sequel than a deeper pursuit of its themes and motifs – Varela steps into the foreground as a woman who, after years waiting for a plane ticket, arrives in Portugal three days after her husband’s funeral. A mesmerising contemplation of race, grief and exile, the film is magnificently photographed by Leonardo Simões, with a visual signature of velvet-dark night in crumbling backstreets, and human presences that acquire the grandeur of classical statuary. With its incantatory dialogue, this is essentially an opera without music, with Varela as a mightily imposing central figure alongside Costa’s ever-present everyman hero Ventura.

Jonathan Romney


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