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Cult Vault #11: Pedro Costa on Numero Zero by Jean Eustache

Cult Portuguese director Pedro Costa counts down to zero

Taken from the February 2011 issue of Dazed & Confused:

The “Samuel Beckett of Cinema”, cult Portuguese director Pedro Costa often takes his camera to Lisbon’s poorest neighbourhoods, shooting drug addicts and the marginalised in docu-drama style. He chose French filmmaker Jean Eustache’s 1971 classic Year Zero for our cult vault: 


“It happened in 2001. It was a beautiful winter afternoon. At the bistrot, over our usual ‘baby whiskeys’, Jean-Marie turns to me: ‘There’s this film by Jean Eustache... I was one of the eight chosen schmucks that he invited to the screening... He was always so unsure – he kept telling us how he thought the film was a useless piece of shit... And when the lights came on, we were all stunned! I told him it was one of the greatest films about the history of France, as great as Renoir’s La Marseillaise. Perhaps the only film ever that you can call an important piece of sociology, without trashing the words film and sociology. I think it’s a film for you.’ Well, that did it. Of course, I had always admired and loved Eustache’s films, and out of the blue comes this mysterious Numéro Zéro: I had to find it! One or two months later, a miracle in Paris: Eustache’s son Boris on the phone, ‘Yes, I think there’s a working print of Numéro Zéro under my bed.’ I called my friend João Bénard da Costa, the late great director of the Portuguese Cinémathéque: “Bring it over, ASAP!” So, the Lab at Film Archives in Lisbon proceeded to restore this magnificent 35mm negative and one day we all sat in the theatre to watch it... and it was my kind of movie all right.”