João Bénard da Costa – Others Will Love the Things I Loved

(Manuel Mozos, Portugal, 2014)


When cinephiles and filmmakers evoke the greatest critics and theorists of cinema, we most often hear the historic names of André Bazin, Manny Farber, Laura Mulvey, Serge Daney … but what about João Bénard da Costa (1935-2009)?


In Portugal and in the international circle of the most progressive film festivals and cinémathèques, he is legendary: nobody who ever heard this curator-supreme introduce one of his most beloved movies ever forgot his erudite, inspiring, charismatic aura. João Bénard da Costa – Others Will Love the Things I Loved, an imaginative, lyrical tribute by his colleague Manuel Mozos, recreates that aura.


At the 2015 Rotterdam Film Festival, Steve James’ documentary on Roger Ebert, Life Itself (2014), sadly but predictably attracted more audience attention, and received greater prominence in the event’s publicity materials, than this film – a more distinctive and intense homage to cinephilia in action.


It is not a conventional bio-doco. Performing as an incantation, it places solemn readings from Bénard’s prose over Steenbeck screenings, inside the Cinemateca Portuguesa (which he directed between 1991 and 2009), of clips from his most beloved movies – including The Ghost and Mrs Muir (1947), Portrait of Jennie (1948) and Gertrud (1964). It mixes these clips with paintings, rooms, book covers, and other memorabilia. Photos show Bénard with Catherine Deneuve, Henri Langlois, Samuel Fuller … and in the company of another legendary cinephile-programmer-activist, Peter von Bagh (1943-2014).


The greatest page on the Internet: on the Portuguese cinephilic site À Pala de Walsh, there are gathered the original, plus translations in 11 different languages so far, of Bénard’s tribute to Nicholas Ray’s Johnny Guitar (1954) – a text that also features in Mozos’ documentary. “Nicholas Ray directed the film”, writes Luís Mendonça in his introduction, “but João Bénard da Costa directed it in our memory and in our hearts”. Can there possibly be a greater compliment for a critic, to be granted access in this way to the magic of co-creation?

© Adrian Martin February 2015 / August 2016

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
home    reviews    essays    search