For his debut feature after half a dozen short features and a great number of commercials, Portuguese director Júlio Alves follows the building of a house from the ground up, purporting to accompany the rhythm and process of constructing it with a glimpse into the lives of those that are building it, turning it from concrete foundations and brick walls into a finished place, ready to receive its tenants.

     Sadly, Mr. Alves' stylish but brief documentary never really fulfills its intentions. It never investigates the whys and hows of this particular house (though the architect is occasionally glimpsed taking measurements), nor does it illuminate the life stories of the immigrant builders, told offscreen in first-person narration. Instead, Mr. Alves focuses on observing the interaction between the workers and the house as it grows into completion, doing so from impeccably framed, still setups, with an interesting sense of space and a visual eloquence that makes A Casa often a good-looking experience.

     Both the absence of any contextualising commentary and the many extended time-shifts make this seem like a half-finished project, able to find beauty in the shapes and forms of the house's barren geometry juxtaposed against the sky or in the scale of the humans next to it, but unable to make it cohere into a feature length statement.

Director, Júlio Alves; cinematography (color), Ricardo Costa; music, Rui Cunha; editor, Tomás Baltazar; producers, Pandora da Cunha Telles, Pablo Iraola, Mr. Alves (Ukbar Filmes, Midnight Express), Portugal, 2012, 67 minutes.
     Screened: IndieLisboa 2012 advance screener, Lisbon, April 19th 2012. 


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