New York’s New Directors/New Films series presents first screenings of two more features today, alongside second screenings of Leones and They’ll Come Back.
“Matías Piñeiro’s wonderfully inventive 63-minute riff on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night takes place in contemporary Buenos Aires,” writes Manohla Dargis, reviewing Viola for the New York Times. “In one corner of the city, an all-female theater group rehearses a pastiche of Shakespeare plays; in another, Viola bicycles from address to address, delivering copies of the audio-video material that she and her boyfriend have pirated. Her world intersects with that of the troupe when she tries to deliver a package to a customer and interrupts two actresses rehearsing a love scene that grows steamier each time they restart it.”
“The phrase ‘deceptively simple’ gets tossed around a lot, usually as a way of signifying that something large and ostentatious can be pared down into a more essential non-complexity,” writes John Semley in Slant. “It’s tempting to call Viola ‘deceptively simple.’ But in truth, the film merits an opposing, if perhaps even more redundant, superlative. Both its effortless pleasure and the budding mastery of Argentine director Matías Piñeiro proceed, in no small part, from structural subtlety. Viola is deceptively complex.”
“Born in 1982 in Buenos Aires, Piñeiro, despite three features (El hombre robado, 2007; Todos mienten, 2009; Viola, 2012) and a 40-minute film commissioned for the Jeonju Digital Project (Rosalinda, 2011), remains overlooked,” argues Quintin in Cinema Scope. “Piñeiro’s firm sense of authorship is not grounded in bold gestures. While the complex structures of his films have been mistaken as mannerism, Piñeiro has a very distinctive style: ten seconds is enough to recognize the director’s hand…. Piñeiro has declared that he doesn’t want to make the kind of film where characters’ paths intersect due to the cleverness of the script, but rather one that allows people to live as they want or as they can. But, in that way, all of these individualists living like monads, trying to succeed in love and art, end up mixing into a symbolic orgy, where film and theatre, men and women, music and literature, work and leisure, dating and talking, are molded into a single entity. In film after film, Piñeiro has increasingly perfected this act of magic, and Viola is his most outstanding film to date.”
More from Chris Knipp. Viewing (84’32”). The Seventh Art conducts an in-depth interview with Piñeiro.
Update, 4/11: Jonathan Robbins interviews Piñeiro for Film Comment.
Update, 4/21: Writing for Reverse Shot, Adam Nayman notes that a “sensation of pleasant confusion recurs throughout Viola, which might be described as an ensemble romantic comedy but at the same time doesn’t seem beholden to any genre. Argentinean director Matías Piñero’s sophomore feature dares to disorient its audience from the first scene onward. But it’s not an obtuse film. Although it is filled with mysteries, it is not asking to be decoded. Instead, Viola invites us to submit to its pleasures, which are ample and ultimately very simple. In lieu of stylistic fireworks or some sort of grand thesis statement, Piñero offers us nothing less than a window on extreme beauty, which radiates through the faces of his actresses and the Shakespeare plays that they intermittently recite in a variety of contexts: as dialogue in stage productions, as lines being rehearsed in private, and as words interpolated into everyday conversation.”
“It is, no doubt, tough work being a full-time mom,” writes Andrew Schenker in Slant, “especially when you get little help or understanding from your husband and long for a role for yourself other than ‘mother.’ To that end, focusing on the different minor travails suffered on a daily basis by Towheads‘ lead character, Penelope (writer-director Shannon Plumb), as well as her attempts to try on various identities, would seem to be an apt choice for a filmmaker who appears to be probing her own autobiographical impulses. But that this should result in a film so tone deaf, unfunny, and generally wrongheaded can only be a unique product of the director’s peculiarly and utterly self-enclosed sensibility.”
Towheads “features a unique homegrown ensemble filled out by filmmaker Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine, The Place Beyond the Pines) paralleling his real-life role as Ms. Plumb’s husband and the boys’ father,” notes Bruce Bennett in a profile for the Wall Street Journal. “The story centers on Penelope (Ms. Plumb), a lapsed actor who has back-burnered her career in favor of homebound motherhood while her theater-director husband focuses on his work. Penelope increasingly falls prey to a kind of mac-and-cheese Stockholm Syndrome from the isolating and unrelenting demands of round-the-clock parenting.”
“Plumb is a video and performance artist,” notes Chris Knipp, “and this move is an excuse for her to stage a long series of her routines blown up into a feature film, with her towhead boys and her faceless husband as props. The stunts have a Keatonesque or Tati-like edge at times, but they might not make a good stage routine…. Plumb’s debut is watchable for a while and might have made a good half-hour film but at an hour and twenty-five it long overstays its welcome.”
Update, 4/6: “With her Jennifer Jason Leigh mumble and a series of gags that should put you in mind of something along the lines of Miranda July or Amy Sedaris’s schtick, Plumb’s Towheads plays like a series of strung together events that somehow paint a portrait of a stifled soul yearning for something more beyond the simple confines of the daily grind,” writes Nicholas Bell at Ioncinema. “While the dramatic nature of Towheads is questionable, Plumb proves herself to be an arresting comedian.”
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