The Princess of France
Directed by Matías Piñeiro
A year after his father’s death in Mexico, Victor returns to Buenos Aires with a twofold mission. On the one hand, he brings with him a new project for his former theater company; on the other, he abandons his part as The Princess of France and takes up a new role in front of five actresses who know him all too well, but who don´t know that time to work will soon become a time to think again about lost loves. (Rivera Maya Film Festival)
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★★★½ review by skyhir on Letterboxd
Even less coherent the second time around, but I don’t mind; maybe Piñeiro’s style is suited to juggling thematically linked episodes a la an album. (More Songs About Shakespeare and Philandering?) But his reception as a soft humanist amazes me, since so many devices hinge on violent reversals:
- Ana and Victor’s “love affair,” played out in a way both simple and sui generis, on the reverse end of an abrupt breakup.
- Natalia’s series of recursive encounters with friends, a Russian nesting doll of friendship buried within passive aggression.
- Paula promising Guillermo she’ll break it off with Victor, and just as casually kissing the latter.
- Victor behaving professionally with Paula, and just as casually telling her, “I know about Guillermo.”
My shorthand for describing Piñeiro’s style has been “Rivette at hyper-speed,” and the density and linguistic complexity of his screenplays and Hawksian clip of his actors’ performances make the layers of performance on display in a 70-minute feature as intricate as the entirety of a 3-hour Rivette opus. All of his features I’ve seen have left me somewhat confounded and delighted, and my only quibble is that his ambitious style requires that emotional investment take a backseat to cerebral game-playing.
★★★½ review by Peter Labuza on Letterboxd
My full review at The Film Stage. A Tough Film for the usual reasons. At once Pineiro's most satisfying film when it comes to its narrative structure (aka what it sets up in the first 10 minutes is resolved in the final 10 minutes), but the digressions here are harder to place together, especially because the first half of the film and the second half of the film seem to have different meta-thematic interests. Nonetheless, the man's examination of how we can watch a narrative unfold is way more ambitious than most contemporary art cinema, and the opening sequence is guaranteed to be near the top of the Muriels/Skandies next year if enough see it.
★★★★ review by ButtNugget on Letterboxd
Life imitates Shakespeare in Matías Piñeiro’s evocative drama about love and infidelity. The film’s focus on romantic entanglements and this general love for theatre and the arts had me thinking of Jacques Rivette, especially since Out 1 is still fresh in my mind. I was also reminded of Hong Sang-soo’s directorial approach because of the visual’s hushed eloquence, not to mention those cryptic repetitions mid-way through. The story concerns Victor and the many women in his life, all of whom work in his radio production of Love’s Labour’s Lost. The opening credits begins in the manner of a stage play as it shows a list of characters. It’s important to take careful note of the roles early on because it’s quite easy to get lost with the names. The actors have a knack for repeatedly talking about off-screen characters who haven’t even made an appearance yet. While this may be confusing at first, I find this is a very unique way of telling a story. Combine that with Piñeiro’s fascinating use of replays in time and you get an experimental Shakespearean drama like no other.
★★★★ review by Michael Scott on Letterboxd
Continuing on his Shakespearean bent, Argentinean director Matías Piñero and his go-to cast pick up another of the Bard's works for another jumbled, convoluted, tangling retelling. This time around it is for a radio play rendition of a stage version of 'Love's Labours Lost'.
Few directors manage to latch onto Ol' Bill's knack for disorientation, miscommunication and misrepresentation quite as well as Piñero but that is not to say that the director is in any way faithful to the play's narrative. Far from it. In fact, Piñero excises most of the text, sets small passages on repeat and swaps in tracts from other plays (the prologue from 'Henry V' and the epilogue from 'As You Like It' are put to good use this time around). In short, The Princess of France is more a Shakespearean tone poem than a out and out adaptation. It's an intoxicating, if befuddling, approach.
A plot summary isn't going to do you much good here. Even with a line by line breakdown you'd be lost. Piñero is at pains to disorient. Five women, most pulled from his cast of regulars, all brunettes, all similarly styled, vie for the affections of a respected theatre director and a couple of others in his entourage. A relationship tangle follows with no discernible outcome. Scenes play over and over with different characters and different conclusions. As far as essence goes though, it gets to the guts of Shakespeare's approach to comedy, language included.
It's brief, it stops abruptly but it is more than able to confound in the time allotted. It'd be interesting (and bewildering) to play this back to back with Piñero's previous two films Rosalinda and Viola. The three would still only come in at a single feature's length. Confusing Shakespeare overload.
★★★★★ review by Lucia Salas on Letterboxd
(Same film that the previous homework but on composition and Lumière/Méliès-Open framing/closed framing. I think this was the first)
The first thing you do in The Princess of France (Matías Piñeiro, 2014) is hearing. A radio announcer is introducing Schumann’s Fruit of a Burning Time and, after a few seconds of static, you begin to wonder about what the first image is going to be and what the relationship with the sound will be: is it diegetic (and if so, is someone listening?) or is it extra-diegetic?
At the end of his presentation, the announcer dedicates the song to Lorena, and a few seconds later the image appears with a woman in it. The relationship with the music never gets clear: is she listening? Hard to say, but almost instantly you know she is Lorena, because someone shouts it from the off-screen space. She is already in action and in the corner of the image when the scene starts – she is putting on a pair of goalkeeper gloves. The rest of the image shows the city out of focus, a very big empty space of the frame that suggests that somewhere in that direction is the human source of the “Lorena!” yell. As the image starts moving to the right (meaning the camera pans?) and below, the city comes into focus and, as it’s the nighttime, you can only see what the lights from the streets and the apartment allow you to see, until a full-lighted place appears and the movement stops, as if it were using the real light from the location as it had been made for the film.
The place is a small soccer field (a fútbol-cinco field) and there is no cut between the Lorena framing and this one, meaning to focus on the idea that the two places are absolutely connected in real life. This is: you can see the field from Lorena’s place, and that’s what we are doing. So far, an open framing, an extreme long shot of a soccer field.
But this idea of setting the limits for where the characters are living and playing feels like something else. A stage, maybe? One with an open frame? And as you think about that, a list of characters appears on the screen, over the field. To add something more to it, Lorena enters like she is a character in a play, entering from the side of the stage. More specifically a Shakespeare play, as this is a rewrite of his Love’s Labour’s Lost (1597).
So there is a trap in this composition: it is made so as you would think you are seeing everything from a privileged position (because the camera is located from a height), the strategic point in which the goalkeeper both was and will be, but inside this supposed open frame there is a closed one: the walls from the other buildings cover the view of some of the field’s edges, a backstage inside the framing. So, if you were to move the camera to the field, pointing to those blind spots, you would see something odd. But you don’t get to do that.
The idea is that every open framing is hiding something, as it is, in fact, a mise-en-scène. And in this one, this supposedly crystalline way of showing the space goes literally against one of the characters as, while they are playing, all the orange players start to disappear. So you have two options: either there are more people inside the field that the ones you can see, or there are people changing clothes in the blind spots. When the only orange one left is Lorena, they line up on the opposite side of the field (from her) and they start running towards her. Is this some kind of ballet? Or is this war? As there is no more time to think, the sensible thing to do is to run away into the city, which goes back into the framing. At some point, the image abandons the chase and goes again into the night to wait for the film title to appear, as if it were saying: beware. And where does Lorena go to hide? A secret theater, of course.
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