The first of Costa's trilogy set in the Creole slums of Lisbon, Bones is the most “traditional” in the narrative sense, drawing upon a classic storyline-a child is born to childish parents-but set in a landscape unlike any other. In the crumbling maze of dead-end streets and collapsing new buildings known as Fontaínhas, a baby is born to a suicidal teenage mother, whose next mistake is to leave it with the equally disturbed father. The father's dazed attempts to alternately kill, hide, and sell the infant lead him through a succession of encounters with the neighborhood's luckless denizens (including several who would feature in Costa's next works). Weathered faces, bodies huddled in the damp, hands clasped against closing doors: Bones captures a world like its title, one stripped of earthly pleasures and down to life's essence. If the film's angular, precise images remind one of Bresson's L'argent, there's a reason; Bones was shot by that film's remarkable cinematographer, Emmanuel Machuel. Jacques Rivette called it “magnificent.”

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