The following is a transcription, with added images, of a beautiful spoken-word scene appreciation by João Bènard da Costa. It's an excerpt from a longer piece that appears as an extra feature on Second Run's DVD release of Pedro Costa's O Sangue. I've never read or heard anyone talk about a film in this way. I know very little about da Costa except that he was the head of the Portuguese Cinémathèque until his death in 2009, his favourite film may have been Johnny Guitar, and that his writings seem not to have been translated into English. He also appears on Criterion's release of Pedro Costa's Ossos (part of the Letters from Fontainhas box set, a must own). I hope that one day I come across more of what he has to say.
We have reached what I like the most and what hurts most: Vicente, in his argyle sweater from when he was small, Clara, with her knit jacket over a white dress, sitting, her legs almost completely uncovered, and Nino, who has already changed his expression to one of surprise. Nino has fallen asleep on Vicente's lap, but with his legs touching Clara's.
Once, a long time ago, I saw Nicholas Ray's film, Rebel Without a Cause, in which a boy, a girl and a child, James Dean, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo, were sitting or lying down, just like this, almost in the same position. Sal Mineo might have said, "Let's put up a tent here, a tent like a triangle, and abandon ourselves to transfiguration."
Except that the children, when they're very happy and when it's very dark outside, and they're very tired, fall asleep. Especially if it's Christmas Eve. And the boys and girls, when they're alone in places like this, in the dark, they don't go to sleep, rather their bodies come alive.
Little by little, notice the scale of the shots and the movement of the camera. The child disappears from the frame, and only the girl and the boy remain. "Ask me things", says Clara and she says it once again. She says it once again to Vicente while her hand rests on his chest, where his heart beats. "Ask me things."
In Casa de Lava there is also a woman who asks a man to ask her things. In his film Ossos as well, "Ask me things, caresses, more."
When Vicente's hand touches Clara's face, Nino has already disappeared from the shot.
They can teach you a thousand lessons about what a medium shot is, about what a close-up shot is, and you still wouldn't understand what happens in this magical sequence which begins with three and ends with two.
In such a close-up, so near, so close.
So close that the only thing left for her to do is to leave.
After that shot, in which she appears out of the blackness, an apparition, like flowing water…
"You'll never have another night like this again."
But much later, Nino asks her, "Why are you leaving? Why is it that you left me in the clutches of Uncle, that old ogre?"
Like Nick Ray's film… That other film begins when Sal Mineo wakes up alone and sees the chains and the black jackets and can't find either Jimmy or Judy.
Love, all love always implies a kind of betrayal, because in the moments that really matter, you have to look out for yourself.