Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 09, 2013 4:33 pm 
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A magical theatrical world of art, outside politics and the quotidian

Piñeiro, who is only 31, is described as one of a group of graduates of the national cinema academy, the Universidad del Cine, who operate outside the government funding system and are resolutely artistic and non-commercial, working in a distinctive style in his case, that involves a focus on a kind of hermetic society or "a secret aristocracy," mostly of women (the cast mostly a team of regulars), among whom "nothing very dramatic ever happens." He makes use of open air settings, loose style, but also elaborate fluid tracking shots and placements of figures and cameras, kept always in motion by the filmmaker's regular cinematographer, Fernando Lockett. Piñeiro has been heralded in some circles as one of Argentina's "most sensuous and sophisticated new voices." His latest film Viola, which incorporates animation with live action, uses the basis of Shakepeare’s Twelfth Night to fashion a roundelay among young actors and lovers in present-day Buenos Aires. Mixing melodrama with sentimental comedy, philosophical conundrum with matters of the heart, the film bears such signature traits, it is said, of a Piñeiro film besides those serpentine camera movements as slippages of language, elliptical narrative and a constant playful confusion of reality and artifice. Piñeiro's methods in this and his earlier films are explained at some length by Quentin in an article in the online journal Cinemascope.) According to Quentin, Piñero, "despite three features (El hombre robado, 2007; Todos mienten, 2009; Viola, 2012) and a 40-minute film commissioned for the Jeonju Digital Project (Rosalinda, 2011), remains overlooked." Well, not at festivals, clearly, since this film has had favorable mentions and admiring reviews at each of its fest appearances, though not all are entranced with the lack of an action you can put your finger on.

According to Quentin, Piñeiro has, by indirection, a political element despite his largely experimental and abstract style. He rejects the authoritarian politicized Argentina of the Kirchners and admires Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, the writer, politician, fourth president and bête noire of the populist Kirchners. His cinema is political precisely in aspiring to an apolitical world of art and artists, eschewing the everyday world. "There is no daily life in Piñeiro’s films, because daily life is connected to family, to politics, to social issues, to regular jobs," and these are tainted with the authoritarianism and populism of the post-Kirchner Argentina. Most of Piñeiro's characters are actors, who at the same time live their roles. "Shakespearean comedies fit perfectly into Piñeiro’s system." Just as Viola is based on Twelfth Night, Rosalinda was based on As You Like It. But Piñeiro's use of Shakespeare is completely playful, actors freely interchanging roles and even sexes, flowing in and out of each other, just as the camerawork flows seamlessly and fluidly.

But when all is said and done, Piñeiro's Viola is surprisingly monotonous, flat, and repetitious. Two women say the same few lines of Shakespearean dialogue over three or four times without stopping. It seems as if they and the film are stuck, till finally a man knocks on the door and comes in, and the film jerkily moves forward again, still not progressing much, because, as Quentin writes, in this filmmaker's work "nothing much dramatic every happens." Nothing much undramatic happens either. Piñeiro is said to be at New York University now on a fellowship to work on his writing. Maybe this experience will jolt him out of his safe little hermetic world of festival art pieces into producing work of wider appeal.

Viola, 63 mins., showed at Toronto and Berlin and won the special jury prize at Valdivia, Chile. It is a Cinema Guild release. Viola was screened for this review as part of the joint MoMA-Film Society of Lincoln Center series New Directors/New Films (March 20-31, 2013). The film was preceded by the 9-minute black and white short, The Search for Inspiration, which looked like a quirky British mixture of a TV advert and an old silent film.

Viola was released theatrically by the Film Society of Lincoln Center Frid., July 12, 2013. It has gotten rave reviews (Metacritic 85), though AV Club (D'Angelo, oft an independent) gives it B-. It shows promise and a distinctive point of view, were the jolt to come.

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

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