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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r


(aka "Bones" )

 

directed by Pedro Costa
Portugal / France / Denmark 1997

 

OSSOS revolves around an unplanned, unwelcome pregnancy. It takes place in a Creole shanty town on the outskirts of Lisbon called Estrela d'África. The father doesn’t want to deal with it, and the mother, Tina, doesn’t want to deal with it alone. She has to literally drag the father from the bed into the other room to make him be with her and the baby. Rolling onto his side away from them, he continues to resist the engagement, until the baby’s safety puts him in motion. It is a third character, Clotilde, who is the most central character and works as perpetual intercessor on Tina’s behalf. While this is the reductive gist, how director Pedro Costa navigates the story is the event.

There is an active economy at work that recalls Bresson, but given their different objectives, Costa's is warmer and more natural. What is precious about Costa's cinema is its egalitarian sweep, the raised status of "extras." There are two girls that work in a kitchen together, recurring mostly as passer-bys or passed-bys, who contribute significantly to the film. There are one-timers like a businessman the father begs from, outside the subway stop. Catching his nuance in the whole scene, before and after contact with the begging father, is indicative of the care the face in the crowd gets. The anonymous face in the crowd enjoys a first-class ticket via the implicature of Costa’s mise-en-scene. OSSOS is the fixation on the crowd that is community, so that it becomes people again—a dialectical enterprise of spectatorship.

The film situates its dramatic discourse in the middle of things and de-dramatizes itself, using low- to mid-range ellipses so that the elided action can be readily deduced, if not immediately, then soon, as the narrative enclosure extends in strict chronological order. Indeed, there seems no place in OSSOS for flashback, just as in Costa’s earlier CASA DE LAVA.

The precise framings often defer the drama’s root element, upon which conditioned gazes fixate, to the exclusion of a range of visual surplus, which for Costa is the most important. For example, not the causal particular that motivates a doctor’s visit, but, rather, the dual regard of mother and child locked in a moment together. The cohering story bits come soon enough, but situated in the proportion that Costa desires. In this example of hospital visit, a spectator, having held onto the unshrink-wrapped moment, can go right back to it, adding the deferred context to retrospectively re-live the mother’s deliberation about how to handle the emergency. Flashbacks are left to be performed in the speculative minds. It is the mother’s deliberation, and this situation of dependence between mother and child, that is the foreground, the socially relevant situation. The spectator can restore the eschewed melodrama’s one-stop shopping of reasons—money, medical insurance, responsibility, and explanations of what and how. One can see an environment where a hospital visit can be a risky enterprise, questioning parental suitability and indicting socio-economic under performance.

The long takes, with tight framings corralling incidental surplus, privileges the after effects, locating the play of pressure that is typically backgrounded, and hence, sacrificed to the economics of visual perception. Here, the aftermath comes first, with the specific causes coming second, to the effect which an x-ray of abstract pressures is produced.

As an example of Bressonian economy, there is an early scene of a bus ride to Clotilde’s work, where the camera frames the father and Clotilde from waist to mid-section. We see the father’s hand, resting on his pant leg. This is held just long enough before Clotilde’s hand enters frame and comes to rest simply upon his. Some desired excess is given focus, despite the restrictive framing, such as the dirty fingernails of both hands. As the relationship isn’t understood yet, these restrictive framings play with hyper-dramatic readings about the relationship between these two people.

The bus rides in OSSOS are in nice contrast to Abbas Kiarostami’s beloved car interiors. With Costa’s mise-en-scene, the solitude of being alone on a bus full of people is used to rich effect, not to mention the lifeline of public transportation, connecting the displaced vital points, such as work and hospital. In the counter-image that soon follows to form a visual couplet with the first, we get the same waist to mid-section framing, this time of Tina and Clotilde sitting together on the bus, after leaving the hospital. Clotilde’s hand enters the frame and does not just come to rest upon Tina’s hand, but clasps it, differentiating the relationship.

The deferred disclosure of the context between Clotilde and the father, and his running off while she hangs clothes in a closet, is resolved soon enough as Clotilde meets Tina at the hospital and says that she came alone, thereby unlocking the suppressed plot details for narrative coherence. Clotilde is the personality that attempts to maintain the connection of the two brand-new, shell-shocked parents. Failing to get the father to show up to meet the mother and new-born at the hospital, she refuses to let him off the hook.

The visual styling that Costa achieves with Emmanuel Machuel, so very different from the same duo’s work on the gorgeous CASA DE LAVA, really enhances the character of the film. OSSOS is of close quarters, less illumination, with more night scenes. Even the outdoor shots typically occur in cramped alleys.

In the world of 5-star ratings, OSSOS deserves at least that much. out of

Fred Patton

Posters

Theatrical Release: 2 September 1997 (Venice Film Festival)

Reviews          DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Gemini Vidéo Editions - Region 2 - PAL

Big thanks to Fred Patton for the Review!

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Distribution

Gemini Vidéo Editions

Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 1:33:24
Video

1.66 : 1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 4.49 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio 2.0 Dolby Digital Portuguese
Subtitles English, French, Portuguese, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Gemini Vidéo Editions

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.66 : 1

Edition Details:
• Commentary & photogy by Jeff Wall, 15:18
• Analysis by Serge Kaganski, 11:10
• discussion from Emmanuel Machuel, the cinematographer, 7:34
• Analysis by Joao Benard da Costa, 8:55
• Trailers (O sangue, Ossos, Casa de Lava)
• Gallery Photos
• Filmographies

DVD Release Date: 1/24/2005
Snap Case

Chapters 11

 

Comments CRITERION REVIEWED HERE

The disc is well-subtitled throughout the bonus content and the film. This seems to be a standard for Gemini Vidéo Editions, who decide on some 15 films to release a year and handle them like artworks. While there is no director commentary or interview with the director, the provided supplements are good. I look forward to pursuing the rest of Gemini's catalogue.

 - Fred Patton

 

 



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  CRITERION REVIEWED HERE

(Gemini Video Editions - Region 2 - PAL - TOP vs. Criterion (Spine # 509) - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 (Gemini Video Editions - Region 2 - PAL - TOP vs. Criterion (Spine # 509) - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

Distribution

Gemini Vidéo Editions

Region 2 - PAL

 

 

 




 

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