First coming to widespread attention with last year's exquisite Viola, Argentine filmmaker Matías Piñeiro has been hailed as one of the most distinctive and exciting new voices in international cinema. Following last summer's showcase at New York's Film Society of Lincoln Center, this TIFF Cinematheque retrospective introduces Toronto audiences to a filmmaker whose four films to date have already drawn admiring comparisons to nouvelle vagueluminaries Eric Rohmer and Jacques Rivette.
Born in Buenos Aires in 1982, Piñeiro studied film at the Universidad del Cine and launched his career by contributing to the 2006 student omnibus film A propósito de Buenos Aires. Piñeiro's solo directorial debut The Stolen Man followed a year later, and already revealed the formal and thematic preoccupations that he would pursue and develop through his next three films: elliptical reworkings of classic literary texts; close framings and masterful gliding camerawork, courtesy of his regular cinematographer Fernando Lockett; and a focus on young women, often actresses or artists, who explore, push and play with the boundaries between performance and reality in their lives as well as their art.
While Piñeiro's films are immensely pleasurable experiences, they can also be difficult to define, which has understandably led critics to search for points of comparison with other filmmakers. The frequent Rivette and Rohmer comparisons are certainly apt: Piñeiro shares Rohmer's conception of dialogue-as-action, while his sinuous narratives echo Rivette's elliptical puzzle-plots. But another, more marginal and unjustly neglected associate of the nouvelle vague also deserves consideration as a potential influence on Piñeiro: the Argentine-born Eduardo de Gregorio, who spent most of his career in France as a screenwriter — most notably collaborating with Rivette on Céline et Julie vont en bateau, Duelle and Noroît, as well as with Bernardo Bertolucci on The Spider's Stratagem — and an excellent director in his own right. As with Piñeiro, de Gregorio evinced a taste for playfully labyrinthine narratives that, as Jonathan Rosenbaum notes, is as indebted to literary references as to cinematic ones; and his "universe where women, many of them divas, are often the ones in control" echoes Piñeiro's world of curious, questioning and sometimes manipulating women, embodied by a recurring ensemble of striking actresses (including María Villar, Romina Paula, Augustina Muñoz and Julia Martínez Rubio).
While de Gregorio's films are more subtle in their evocations of their literary inspirations (Borges, James, Carroll), all four of Piñeiro's films to date are directly based upon revered works of literature: The Stolen Man and They All Lieare derived from writings by Domingo Faustino Sarmiento — the nineteenth-century intellectual, activist and former president of Argentina, whose portrait hangs in most of the nation's classrooms — Rosalinda and Viola from Shakespeare's As You Like It and Twelfth Night, respectively. Rather than straight adaptations however, the films are, in Piñeiro's words, "variations, extensions or desecrations" of their source texts that reimagine and repurpose them for the present. Using the Sarmiento texts to explore the history and urban topography of contemporary Buenos Aires, The Stolen Man and They All Lie not only measure the weight of history upon today's youth but show how that history can be reappropriated (e.g., the theft of historic artifacts from the museum in The Stolen Man) or even fabricated outright (e.g., the forged artworks in They All Lie). In the Shakespeare films, the Bard's immortal words become flexible instruments by which Piñeiro's characters explore the boundary between performance and real life, while the plays' masquerading and identity-switching plots prompt musings on the possibility for the characters to freely determine their own circumstances, and selves. Much like a musical divertimento, Piñeiro's films are beguilingly light compositions with no fixed form; blending canonical sources and modern life into a seamless, enchanting whole, they bring new meaning to Jean-Luc Godard's maxim that everything that is classic is automatically contemporary.
— Brad Deane
We would like to thank the following for making this series possible: Matías Piñeiro; Rosaria Folcarelli, Cinecittà Luce; Yeoun Yang, Jeonju International Film Festival.