May 2017, arsenal cinema

Roles and Plays – The Films of Matías Piñeiro

TODOS MIENTEN, 2009

Argentinian filmmaker Matías Piñeiro (*1982) is one of the most promising talents in contemporary cinema. While his films regularly receive attention and acclaim at the major international film festivals, they have yet to be screened here in Germany at all, with the exception of VIOLA, which was shown at the Berlinale Forum in 2013. With this in mind, Arsenal is now presenting a short retrospective of Piñeiro’s five features and two shorts from 2007 to 2016. We are very happy that Matías Piñeiro will be our guest at Arsenal on the opening weekend thanks to the support of the Embassy of Argentina. In addition to the Q&As following the screenings, a studio discussion with Piñeiro moderated by filmmakers Christoph Hochhäusler and Nicolas Wackerbarth takes place on May 6th as part of the "Revolver Live" series.

The films of Matías Piñeiro connect the art of film to other art forms such as theatre and literature in stylistically distinctive and unmistakable fashion. Since 2010, Piñeiro has been working on an unusual project: in his four lively, wonderfully wordy variations on Shakespeare to date, he transposes female characters, themes, moods, and dialogues from the Bard's comedies together with their complicated relationship networks into contemporary contexts in Argentina or New York; for their part, the books of Argentinian writer and politician Domingo Faustino Sarmiento (1811–1888) play a major role in his first two films. The focus is always on a circle of friends in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties who live at a slight remove from the rest of society and are intensively engaged with literature, acting, or music. Women are always front and center and there is an abundance of swiftly delivered dialogue. Nearly the same acting ensemble appears in all the films. The tone is cheerful and playful and dramatic escalation remains conspicuous by its absence, even when the combinations of characters and their emotional states approach tipping point. The narrative structure is often as unpredictable as the characters themselves, the fast tempo captivating, the camerawork brilliant, and the choreography of characters and gestures hugely precise.

HERMIA & HELENA (USA/Argentina 2016, 4.5., with guest Matías Piñeiro & 12.5.) Camila (Agustina Muñoz), an Argentinian woman around 30 years of age, receives a grant to go to New York for a year to translate Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" into Spanish, although she's hesitant to leave her boyfriend, friends, and pregnant sister behind in Buenos Aires. She takes over the apartment and acquaintances of her predecessor Carmen (María Villar) in wintry New York and encounters variously a woman (Mati Diop) who writes mysterious postcards, an old lover and a new one, and, in a magnificently directed scene, the father she never knew. Piñeiro's first film to be shot outside of Argentina and in English jumps back and forth between New York and the day Camila leaves Buenos Aires and operates with artful dissolves, intertitles, ragtime music, and a touch of both Rivette and Rohmer.

EL HOMBRE ROBADO (The Stolen Man, Argentina 2007, 5.5., with guest Matías Piñeiro & 8.5.) Mercedes (María Villar) works in the Museum of Spanish Art in Buenos Aires and spends her free time engaging with the work of writer and reformer Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, who was active in the 19th century. She applies the insights gleaned from her reading to the love and working lives of those around her. She also purloins objects from the museum and replaces them with ones from the music academy stolen from there in turn by her boyfriend Leandro, who she would like to leave but is somehow unable to. A series of schemes and complications ensues that revolve around Leandro, her friend Leticia, her boyfriend Andrés, and the question of whether the latter is having an affair with Clara. The locations of this debut film shot in grainy black and white are museums, a book store, the Botanical Garden and the Music Academy – places where history, art, love, and life merge.

LA PRINCESA DE FRANCIA (The Princess of France, Argentina 2014, 5.5., with guest Matías Piñeiro & 10.5.) Víctor returns to Buenos Aires following the death of his father and a lengthy absence. He brings with him a new project for his old theater troupe: a radio play of Shakespeare’s comedy "Love's Labour's Lost" complete with live music. It's not only at the recording sessions in the sound studio that the Bard’s verses are in the air, they also form the basis for the cheerful circular dance of relationships which positions Víctor right in the midst of girlfriends, ex-girlfriends, lovers, best friends, and perhaps future girlfriends. Love comes and goes, kisses are exchanged together with any number of fine words, love letters end up in the wrong hands, and fallacies and confusions ensue. The camera carefully scans the characters faces and several historical paintings in equal measure.

IN THE MUSEUM (Argentina 2015, 5. & 10.5.) A short set report. Matías Piñeiro analyses photos and film footage in voiceover from the shoot of a scene for LA PRINCESA DE FRANCIA at the Art Museum in Buenos Aires. The painting of a nude from the hall of 19th century French painting is revealed to be a motif that was also supposed to appear in a film by Jean-Claude Rousseau that was never actually completed.

VIOLA (Argentina 2012, 6. & 12.5.) Cecilia (Agustina Muñoz), a young actress, repeatedly rehearses the same scene from Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" with persistence and passion together with Sabrina. Sabrina has just split up with Agustín, which Cecilia thinks was a mistake. Viola (María Villar) crisscrosses Buenos Aries as a bicycle courier delivering illegal copies of DVDs. Her boyfriend Javier can't take his eyes off Cecilia’s performance. The part that Cecilia is playing is soon to be taken over by Ruth, who offers it to Viola in turn. Enjoyably deliberate confusion mounts up with respect to both roles and relationships. Day-to-day conversations about love shift into Elizabethan verse in the process and back again – precisely narrated and with numerous close-ups of faces, this fast-paced film subliminally suggests that performance and everyday life are one and the same.

ROSALINDA (Argentina 2010, 6.5., followed by a "Revolver Live" discussion with Matías Piñeiro) It's summer. An acting troupe meets out in the country to rehearse Shakespeare's comedy "As You Like It". Just before they get started, Luisa (María Villar), who is to play Rosalinda, finishes with her boyfriend via cell phone. Orlando is soon trying to court her already, while she's now slipped into the role of Rosalinda and is living in the forest disguised as a man – a banishment which she sees as liberation. Whether when discussing dialogue or rehearsing, when swimming in the river or playing cards – in this medium-length opener to Piñeiro's Shakespeare project, the roles of Luisa the actress and Rosalinda the character already merge in cheerful, miraculous fashion. 

TODOS MIENTEN (They All Lie, Argentina 2009, 8. & 10.5.) A group of young people get together at a country house faraway from Buenos Aires. They drink, kiss, take pills, read a lot, tell made-up stories and act them out, draw, or play around with a gun. The location and the community have something utopian about them. The atmosphere is conspiratorial and suddenly suspicions begin to pervade the group. At the heart of the film is Helena Pickford, she reads from the travel diaries of Domingo Faustino Sarmiento from the 19th century where the question of Argentinian identity is thrown up and it’s she that determines the rules of the game they’re all playing. (bik)

An event with the friendly support of the Embassy of the Republic of Argentina and the dffb (Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin). Thanks to Gonzalo Rodríguez Newbound, Bodo Knapheide, and Alejo Franzetti.

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