Piñeiro - 2013 08 22 - Viola

VIOLA
Argentina 2013
Directed by Matías Piñeiro
Running time: 65 minutes

Please forgive me, sincerely, for assuming you’ve not yet heard of Matías Piñeiro. This 31 year old filmmaker hails from Buenos Aires, Argentina, where a typical film of his…

“…plays for one week all over the city at different times, and then suddenly it’s over… [the] system is just an old one that doesn’t adjust to new developments in film technology and production. It’s like making sausages… You don’t have the good German or Spanish films in Argentina. Or Chilean films! There were five good ones from Chile that year, and none of them showed in Argentina. They’re right across from us, over a little mountain, but we don’t get to see them. I mean, people are premiering at Cannes with a USB drive. People under house arrest are showing at Cannes.”
-Matías Piñeiro, FilmComment

I was made aware of Piñeiro’s work via the folks I follow on Twitter who (mostly) live in New York. In May of this year, the Film Society of Lincoln Center showcased this filmmaker’s prodigious oeuvre, which was a New York reprise screening of tonight’s film, VIOLA. Because I’m affiliated with AkronFilm+Pixel, I am approved to subscribe to a service called FestivalScope (“for Film Professionals World Wide”). As such, I was able to watch VIOLA once before proposing it as August’s contemporary film slot. Once. In accordance with FestivalScope’s policy. Stupidly, I didn’t take notes. The prospect of writing about VIOLA without seeing it again is unutterably sad.

Piñeiro’s work is singular (and major) but not without discernable lineage. In his use of actors, with their semi-improvisatory style; in what might best be described as an irrepressible face fetish; in his subversive empathy and humanism, Piñeiro is a compatriot of John Cassavetes, the “actor’s director,” par excellence. In his excursus on the interpenetration of fiction and reality; in his mimetic incantations; in his musical notation of theme and variation, there is something of Abbas Kiarostami and Hong Sang-soo. But what are we to make of his distinctly classical, romantic lighting and soft focus? This is not Cassavetes. What are we to do with his insistence on gabby characters? His thumb-biting at the idea that cinema must move beyond the spoken word to be essentially cinematic? This is not Kiarostami. The way tiny tensions erupt from a simple knock on the door recall Jafar Panahi (that is, the guy “under house arrest”). The way a masterwork of fiction from our world, like Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, having inspired so many of us, now inspirits the character arcs of his diegesis recalls, maybe, Eric Rohmer’s use of Jules Verne in THE GREEN RAY (1986). I can’t totally place VIOLA. And for that, I am ecstatic. But I also won’t see VIOLA again until tonight. And for that lack of access, even as our work tonight kindles a tiny fire of defiance, I am devastated.

KURTISS HARE
22 August 2013