Horse Money Screen 41 articles

Horse Money

2014

Horse Money Poster
  • Costa’s Academy-ratio compositions are consistently stunning, but his movies so doggedly avoid cause and effect relationships that I find them nearly impossible to parse. Fans of the other films, however, will surely want to see this new one, as it’s in the same mold.

  • My objection to Horse Money derives partly from its studied artfulness: the proficiency with which it turns pain into an objet d’art. Many of its images are indeed beautiful and haunting, and possess a ghostly radiance, but there is also a surgical formalism at work, as if the damage exhumed by Costa were exhibited beneath a glass case.

  • Beautiful, of course - possible fave shot: couple on the roof at nighttime, the apartment lights across the street behind them arranged in a kind of neon halo - but its beauty is artificial and even slightly suspect (why make an aestheticized film about political oppression? does it soften the blow?).

  • The most common response to Horse Money seemed to be, “I have to think about it.” While its moody images are stunning, it was Martín Rejtman’s Two Gunshots that cast a spell over me...

  • Costa has been accused of obscurantism, and I think there’s merit to the charge. Yet the power of his imagistic procession is undeniable, even enrapturing. Somewhere between Rembrandt and “Eraserhead,” dominated by shades of brown and gray, the film’s pristine HD cinematography conjures a dark night-world of shadows, hulking forms and sculpted faces... Watching it, though my doubts about the story’s opaqueness remained, I felt myself being swayed into the Costa camp.

  • In Pedro Costa’s Horse Money, the director’s particular (and oft-celebrated) way of employing extended narrative abstraction to dissolved boundaries between fiction metaphor and nonfiction milieu lost me somewhere and didn’t care to pick me up again. Still, the haunted images created by Costa are among the most potent in cinema, despite the opaque rendering.

  • Though [Costa's] subject matter is stark and serious, no one could accuse him of lacking a sense of humor. There are glimmers of demented comedy in the riddle-like dialogue and in the hunched movement of the non-professional cast. And there is, as always, a powerful sense of poetry, both to the dialogue—much of it seemingly spoken in blank verse—and to the editing, which eschews continuity as though it were a constraining type of rhyme.

  • More rigorous structurally and in its mise en scène than anything Costa has done, Horse Money is the one film in Locarno (aside from JLG's Adieu au langage, but that's outside of the main program) that feels entirely new—and yet it is firmly attached to the old, not just thematically, but stylistically. Its minimalist, stripped-down sequence of almost-still compositions and gestural observation feel imported and translated from silent and classical cinema (expressionism, genre movies, etc.).

  • To describe the action of “Horse Money” is to convey only a fraction of the film’s cumulative power. Working about as far as possible from the commercial mainstream of the movie business, Costa has again made a singular docu-fiction hybrid that defies classification as readily as it reimagines the possibilities of cinema for the post-spectacle, post-theatrical era.

  • What makes Horse Money such a striking achievement is how unique the experience of getting lost in its maze of thought and image really is, at once confounding, disquieting, stimulating, and hugely emotional, not least in one extended monologue that ends by describing the violent death of a horse called Money. Despite the film's utter singularity, I was oddly reminded of Inland Empire at times, another late-career work that goes about creating a summation of sorts by collapsing all boundaries.

  • The anguish is up there on the screen, in every shot, every tremulous gesture of Ventura, trudging along in his concentration-camp-like pyjamas, and the tears that snakes down Vitalina’s cheek... About as torturous to revisit in writing as it is to watch, the most true-to-form analysis of Horse Money should proceed in this painstaking way, shot after shot, because to examine the film as a whole, or as a connection of scenes that flow one into the other, is an impossibility.

  • The asylum setting is telling, for this unrelentingly expressionistic horror story can stand with The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Encircled by the deepest chiaroscuro I’ve ever seen (more silent-film linkage: like Griffith, Costa uses darkness to reshape the frame), characters recite birth and marriage and death certificates in desperate murmurs, attempting to reinforce their existence as something other than phantoms.

  • Etched in dark grow, pulled this way and that by psychic digressions, the film seems a group exorcism, a conjuration of the past through an invocation of an ill present. Ultimately, the film is an incantation to survive into the future.

  • When, abruptly, the music starts late, it is a lighting bolt in the controlled, stagey universe Costa has created. The elusive plotting, stylised performances, and anti-realist lighting recall a Brechtian aesthetic, something affirmed by citations of proto-horror Weimar cinema, including gothic music over the spindly cast shadow of Ventura’s long fingers as well as a haunting closing image quoting Lang’s M.

  • Suffering from dementia and a nervous condition that causes his hands to tremble, [Ventura] passes through spaces defined more by extremes of light and shadow than walls and ceilings, settings that could be out of Costa’s beloved Val Lewton horror movies, but firmly rooted in their forebears, German Expressionist films, with Ventura’s resemblance to the sleepwalking Cesare in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari adding to the sense of warped time in a deranged psyche. Everything is in the present tense.

  • It's like a haunted-house movie, only the house in question seems to go on forever, a passacaglia in 360 degrees; even if Ventura thought he had killed another man during the revolution, he has spent the interregnum dying from the same knife wound.

  • One could invoke Costa’s framing (almost constantly static), lighting (minimal but dramatic), and sound (heavily layered and powerfully atmospheric), but standard critical vocabulary doesn’t begin to convey the unique, otherworldly feel of his films. It’d take a song or a poem to do that.

  • The single most beautiful image of the festival was a close-up of Ventura’s nails: long, smooth, delicate and ivory-pink. This film feels like a formidable work—but it resists immediate ‘assimilation’ and ‘critical processing’. Every image here is majestic, unhurried, stone-like: with a silent weight.

  • The film’s dark and sublime painterliness, poetic incantations and weary otherworldliness echo [Costa's] prior Colossal Youth, but it’s harder to lock into in its opaque drift. Nevertheless, in tapping the disorientation of historical trauma some scenes are unforgettable – such as the ageing, infirm Ventura stuck in an elevator with a chatter of voices from his past and the luminously painted apparition of a revolutionary army soldier.

  • [Horse Money] proved to be my favourite film of the festival, and by a wide margin... The images in Horse Money are sublime, haunted and material.

  • The sentiment I had when the film was over was one of unresolved – and possibly unresolvable – mystery. Horse Money more than merits repeat viewings for those who are willing to work away at it secrets; it is a complex, densely-layered film, where the spectator is never entirely sure about the status of what is presented to them on-screen.

  • Painterly and meditative in Costa's singular manner, this 2014 feature reconfigures traumatic episodes, both personal and historical, into a waking dream.

  • Pedro Costa reaffirms his position as one of contemporary cinema's finest filmmakers with his first fiction feature in eight years, a hypnotic masterpiece that examines the African immigrant experience in the director's native Portugal.

  • Whereas Ford and Hawks, working in the studio system, sometimes systematized their own aesthetic choices, Costa seems to rethink his own movie with each new scene. Nothing is ever expected, visually or structurally, and everything is at the service of aligning himself with his tall, beautiful, quavering hero, endlessly circling around the time he got into a knife fight with a man in a red shirt named Joaquim, smack in the middle of the Carnation Revolution.

  • Even for a filmmaker as radically transgressive as Costa, Horse Money represents a sharp departure from the long takes of In Vanda’s Room (2000) and Colossal Youth (2006) in its privileging of traumatic memory and consciousness and all the narrative fragmentation this entails over any sustained continuity of space or chronology.

  • The films of Pedro Costa have long been about implicating the invisible in the destruction of the individual; by working from the inside out and opting for a setting that allows for surrealist devices—the aforementioned elevator scene, but also the frequent voiceovers that bleed into and out of reality—Horse Money exorcises Ventura’s trauma while preserving his story. It also proves Costa’s radicalism has no bounds.

  • I was completely lost during much of Horse Money and I didn’t much care for that feeling in the moment. But eventually I had a turn (one that I always long to experience), a moment of clarity that helped me tap into a very specific artist’s very specific vision. I can’t point to an exact instant of lucidity so much as describe a feeling—an ever-sharpening, if still amorphous accumulation akin to the Rorschach shadows that turn every frame of this dream of a movie nebulous.

  • If Costa and Ventura could translate their memories and worldview into words, they wouldn’t have made this film. Costa finds it difficult to articulate the feelings that fed Horse Money, let alone make any kind of definitive statement about the meaning of the film. In some ways, it is a poem to the people and world of Fontainhas, the now-demolished, multiethnic Lisbon slum where Costa's Ossos (1997) and In Vanda's Room (2000) were shot, and where Ventura spent most of his life.

  • Whether or not shots fit with each other in Horse Money, sequences barely seem to match sequences: this is a film of formidable discontinuity that takes the form of a dream. Which is not to say that Horse Money represents a dream, simply that it uses the fragmentation and hidden chains of connection that are peculiar to dream logic.

  • Costa extends the tale into mythopoetic dimensions, aided by a repertory of images—featuring immobile, hieratic poses in glowing cityscapes throughout Lisbon—that lend the movie frozen glints of studio-era rhapsody.

  • This is a new approach for Costa, and quite a shocking one. It’s still unmistakably Costa’s work: in the exquisite precision of its camera and lighting placement, its uncomfortably close sound design, and in its use of consumer-grade digital video. But here each of these is heightened and distinct from his previous work: the framing is not simply uncanny but almost spatially impossible; the soundtrack is often dead silent, at other times so hushed that you can hear Ventura’s hands shaking.

  • Audiences unfamiliar with Mr. Costa are likely to find the experience incomprehensible, but “Horse Money” offers a challenge worth meeting for viewers prepared to give it patience. The puzzle-box narrative only grows more hypnotic with repeat viewings. The movie insists on having the audience, like Ventura, pass through madness to reach catharsis.

  • Pedro Costa's first narrative film in nine years, "Horse Money," is as gorgeous and impenetrable as a dream. It might be set in an afterlife where souls contemplate their lives (and their mistakes, and their misfortunes), or there might be something else to it; like many of the Portuguese filmmaker's works, this one teases and baffles but refuses to explain itself.

  • Costa deploys clear methods of framing and mise en scène in order to delineate shifts between Ventura's consciousness and a semi-objective outside world. In fact, Costa does this quite masterfully throughout, with match cuts and rhythmic symmetries that allow us to perceive the exact same spaces and scenes through Ventura's eyes.

  • ++

    Sight & Sound: Jacques Rancière
    September 07, 2015 | October 2015 Issue (pp. 49-52)

    If Straub and Huillet haunt Horse Money, it's not on account of these cynical words about the condition of the exploited. Rather it's because they showed... that all of history contains the possibility of at least two variations. In their work, the lesson about the sadness of those who are nothing is split in two: on the one hand there is the lyrical affirmation that the poor are something and have a voice to say it with, and on the other the dialectical dispute over who is and who isn't.

  • In Costa’s cinema, the act of representation is an act of exorcism in itself – or, as he put it in an interview with Cinema Scope magazine, a means to fully leave the past behind: “Some people say they make films to remember. I think we make films to forget.” It’s a declaration as weary yet sober-minded as this film is unsurprising, especially in light of Costa’s intimidating oeuvre, which carries the weight of both cultural and cinematic history in every deeply felt frame.

  • It is a sumptuous piece of work that leaves Costa open to the charge of ‘aestheticising poverty’ – an accusation usually levelled by people who prefer to ignore the fact that the poor have an inconvenient habit of aestheticising themselves, like Ventura in his dandyish, cock-of-the-walk ruffle shirt. It’s a film of people who begin and end their days by night, living and dying known and remembered by a precious few, displaying their beauty, their only inalienable property.

  • Wherein Costa’s collaboration with the personage known as Ventura veers off from a statuesque poetic not-quite-realism into a realm of nearly sci-fi dystopia and dread. Intimations of the underworld and the very real spectre of fascism are given utterly convincing form in a shudderingly beautiful film.

  • Horse Money enters the dark, private spaces of its hero Ventura, an aging immigrant worker wandering a shadowy landscape that suggests the inside of his mind. It’s a movie that lives in the shadows of all things on the brink of disappearing—the traumatic past of Cape Verde’s political protests, of migrant workers lost in an adopted homeland, of heartbreak, aging and physical decay.

  • Using the old man’s addled state as an excuse for a wide-scale reckoning, the director turns the hospital into an entirely symbolic space, its walls eventually giving way, eliminating the aura of confinement but doing nothing to diminish the film’s thick atmosphere of dread. The story spreads outward accordingly, as if the destruction of Fountainhas has suffused all of Lisbon with its specific style of misery.

  • The ensemble’s wanderings and their monologues are informed by Portugal’s colonial relationship to the actors’ Cape Verdean homeland, and this dense context renders much of the loose narrative opaque. But even watching it with nil knowledge of Lisbon’s political history, the hoarse voices of the dispossessed are nonetheless haunting as they echo throughout an architectural embodiment of memory.

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