Channeling Shakespeare, in a Bohemian Buenos Aires ; Matias Pineiro's Twist on 'Labour's Lost' Opens at Locarno Film Festival

By Rapold, Nicolas | International New York Times, August 8, 2014 | Go to article overview

Channeling Shakespeare, in a Bohemian Buenos Aires ; Matias Pineiro's Twist on 'Labour's Lost' Opens at Locarno Film Festival


Rapold, Nicolas, International New York Times


Matias Pineiro's twist on "Labour's Lost" opens at Locarno Film Festival.

There are a number of ways in which a young filmmaker might make a splash with a new movie -- sex, violence, mumbling. Adapting Elizabethan-era drama, however, does not usually rank high on the list. But, for a number of years, Shakespeare's comedies have been the prime obsession of the 32-year-old Argentine filmmaker Matias Pineiro.

On Thursday, Mr. Pineiro's latest feature, "The Princess of France," was set to open the Concorso Internazionale at the 67th Locarno Film Festival in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, which runs through Aug. 16. Founded in 1946 with a slate including Roberto Rossellini's "Rome, Open City," the lakeside event is one of the oldest film festivals in Europe after Cannes and Venice. Under the artistic director Carlo Chatrian, and before him Olivier Pere, its programming has become a vital home for innovative cinema, with this year's filmmakers including Pedro Costa, Lav Diaz and Jean- Marie Straub.

Like Mr. Pineiro's previous two films "Rosalinda" and "Viola," which reworked "As You Like It" and "Twelfth Night," respectively, "The Princess of France" borrows from Shakespeare. (All of the films are in Spanish.)

The story focuses on a young man (Julian Larquier Tellarini) who is assembling a radio play based on "Love's Labour's Lost" while challenges simultaneously pile up in his own love life. The film is set in Mr. Pineiro's familiar milieu of young, restless, Bohemian, middle-class Argentine men and women in and around a Buenos Aires preoccupied with artistic and romantic pursuits. They chattily and drolly circle one another around town (and on stage).

Before "The Princess of France" was screened at Locarno, the Cinema Guild, which also distributed "Viola," announced that it had acquired it U.S. distribution rights to the film.

In describing Mr. Pineiro's work, as part of a feature last fall on 20 young directors to watch, the New York Times film critic A.O. Scott wrote, "the strivings of the young are filtered through a lively literary sensibility and a precise and elegant visual style." This style, at once contemporary and classical in its light-footed approach, is reflected in his latest work too.

The basic motif, according to Mr. Pineiro, has to do with enjoying how people talk. "Talking in a nonnaturalistic way, taking words with a certain density, and playing with them as if they were clay," he said, speaking in English over lunch recently in New York, in a conversation that ranged in reference points from "King Lear" to "Showgirls."

Mr. Pineiro began his career studying filmmaking at the Universidad del Cine in Buenos Aires. He thought at first about entering film criticism (and earlier still, studying mathematics), but he enjoyed shooting films for class. After further studies in literature, he made his first feature, "The Stolen Man," in 2007, which showed at a selection of festivals worldwide.

Mr. Pineiro, who now lives in New York but returns regularly to Buenos Aires, has supported himself recently through teaching Spanish and a writing scholarship at New York University, and before that he had a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Financing his films has involved what he calls a "Frankenstein" mix of independent funding, earnings from "Viola," work-in-progress grants and equipment often provided by his Buenos Aires film school. For "Rosalinda," he even had logistical help from his mother, a midwife, who moonlighted as a driver and producer and received a screen credit.

The premiere of "The Princess of France" at Locarno comes a year after "Viola" had an acclaimed theatrical run in New York as well as screenings internationally. At only 65 minutes, "Viola" moved between a troupe rehearsing a performance of "Twelfth Night" and a young woman (Maria Villar) working for a DVD pirating service. …

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