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|In ‘Viola,’ Shakespeare Is Lens to Look at Young|
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0332 Friday, 12 July 2013
Date: July 12, 2013 12:45:38 PM EDT
Subject: In ‘Viola,’ Shakespeare Is Lens to Look at Young
From The New York Times online:
July 11, 2013
Romantic Puzzles in Need of Solving
By A. O. Scott
The mischievous paradox of Matías Piñeiro’s “Viola” is that it is at once devilishly complicated and perfectly simple. The characters belong to a recognizable, transnational urban tribe; their Buenos Aires could be Austin or Edinburgh, Brooklyn or Prague or any other city with a significant population of artistically inclined, financially insecure, sexually free young people.
To describe Mr. Piñeiro, a 31-year-old Argentine filmmaker living in New York, as the exponent of a South American version of mumblecore would not be inaccurate, just incomplete. The social milieu of his movies — an enlightening and enlivening retrospective of them has been part of this year’s LatinBeat series at the Film Society — is certainly familiar. Men and women in their 20s, students or recent graduates, come and go in apartments and cafes, speaking of love and work and grocery shopping.
But there is an elegance to Mr. Piñeiro’s visual style, a sinuous precision to his camera work, that suggests a different kind of artistic ambition. And in “Viola,” as in its shorter, earlier companion “Rosalinda,” he explores the romantic puzzles and creative explorations of his generation through the work of Shakespeare. Both films are being shown as a double feature that is an excellent introduction to this filmmaker’s work and a beguiling companion to Joss Whedon’s splendid screen adaptation of “Much Ado About Nothing.”
The connection between Shakespeare and the Buenos Aires bohemians is, on one level, perfectly literal and straightforward. In both “Viola” and “Rosalinda,” a Shakespeare play is being rehearsed by an overlapping cast of actors who may or may not also be playing themselves. In “Viola” we see outtakes from an all-female production of “Twelfth Night”; in “Rosalinda,” lines from “As You Like It” are being run in and around what looks like someone’s parents’ country house in a forest alongside a muddy river. Shakespeare’s language, heard in Spanish with English subtitles, frames and punctuates ambivalent breakups and tentative hookups, while also broaching themes of desire, deception and the mutability of identity.
Both “As You Like It” and “Twelfth Night” are comedies of dissembling and disguise, in which true love is arrived at under false pretenses. In “As You Like It,” Rosalind pretends to be a man to get close to Orlando. In “Twelfth Night,” Viola, masquerading as a manservant, woos Olivia on behalf of Duke Orsino, who Viola herself will fall in love with even as Olivia falls in love with her. The unstable relationship between being and seeming is the essence of theater, and Mr. Piñeiro is interested in seeing how this confusion affects and illuminates the world beyond the stage.
For this reason, he has sometimes been compared with Jacques Rivette, the French director whose nimble cinematic disruptions of reality often include itinerant or experimental theater companies. The other French auteur who comes to mind is Eric Rohmer, who was transfixed by the way aimless talk and casual behavior could reveal the hidden currents and intricate patterns of social and sexual life.
But Mr. Piñeiro is more of a miniaturist than Mr. Rivette, and less of a perfectionist than Rohmer. Watching “Viola” is like walking into the middle of a party whose guests (and hosts) are mostly friends of friends, vaguely familiar, very attractive and a little mysterious. You try to glean who is connected to whom, and how. Are those two women friends or rivals? Did one of them just break up with her boyfriend, or get back together with him? And then you drift into another conversation and try to figure out how it is connected to the others. You end up zigzagging through strange parts of town on obscure errands that may just be excuses to do more hanging out.
And then at the end, unexpectedly, it all makes sense. A narrative shape and an emotional payoff arrive in the very last scenes, just as the spell is broken. You have been privy to a series of seductive, ephemeral moments, drawn into the eternal rhythm of youth and connected with something old and durable, one name for which is art.
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