Jake Baldwinson takes a look at Horse Money, this week’s Tuesday Wonder on October 27th at 6.30 p.m.
The last feature length fiction film by Portugal’s Pedro Costa, Juventude em Marcha (Youth on the March/Colossal Youth 2010) looked, in part, at the destruction of the Fontainhas district of Lisbon and the rehoming of it’s residents. Fontainhas had been Costa’s filmmaking home since Ossos in 1997, and with his familiar surroundings empty, Pedro looked further afield for inspiration. Whilst promoting his concert film Ne Change Rien (Change Nothing 2009) in New York, and looking at music history there, Costa was struck by physical similarities between legendary New York poet and musician, Gil Scott-Heron, and star of Colossal Youth, Ventura. This led to talks between Costa and Scott-Heron on a possible film, which were sadly halted by the poet’s death in 2011.
With fragments of film ideas, and with the project in limbo, Costa moved his thoughts back to the former residents of Fontainhas, including Ventura, and started to develop a new film imbued with the spirit of Scott-Heron’s work, and possibly with the shared history of poverty and social unrest in Lisbon and New York. Going as far as opening with a series of photographs by Jacob Riis, a photographer documenting the New York slums at the turn of the 20th century.
Pedro Costa’s films, especially the ones set in Fontainhas, are recognisable as intersections between fiction and documentary; fusing the personal recollections of Costa’s non-professional actors, with his interest in film history, of expressionism and the ‘dark cinema’ of Hollywood in the 1940’s and 50’s. That hasn’t been more noticeable than it is in Horse Money, where our characters stalk the halls of shadowy hospital, reliving their lives, their uprooting from Cape Verde, and connection to the Portuguese revolution in the mid-70’s. This haunting, poetic, musically-minded film is in my opinion, Pedro Costa’s most accomplished, and possibly my favourite of this year. I can’t wait to see it again.