“It would be easy to mistake Two Shots Fired, the new feature from Argentine filmmaker Martín Rejtman, for a less original film than it is,” begins Max Nelson in the new issue of Cinema Scope. “Considered in isolation, its stubborn, deliberate anti-expressiveness—it concerns a short spell in the life of three troubled members of an upper-class family whose faces, voices and bodies seem to have been set permanently in neutral—can come off as cagey or aloof. That it also represents a logical development of one of the sharpest, savviest, and most humane comic sensibilities in contemporary cinema suggests a good deal about what makes Rejtman such a fascinating, occasionally frustrating filmmaker. His fatalistic, obsessive-compulsive, bone-dry jokes get funnier and more profound the longer they are kept up, until they start to sink in the viewer’s stomach like a dead weight.”Introducing an interview with Rejtman for Film Comment, Violet Lucca notes that the filmmaker and novelist “has alternated his focus over the course over his 28-year career, which in part explains the half-decade gap between his latest feature and 2009’s Elementary Training for Actors, which he co-directed with Federico Leon. Elementary was an adaptation of one of his books—he’s also adapted two others, Rapado  and Silvia Prieto —but Two Shots Fired is an original screenplay.””In his four fictional features…, the Argentine director has painted a highly idiosyncratic portrait of urban alienation in his native Buenos Aires, a portrait of a middle class mired in meaningless cycles of repetition and wholly insouciant about it,” writes Giovanni Marchini Camia, introducing his interview with Rejtman for BOMB. “Rejtman gets great comic mileage out of his urbanites’ deadpan obliviousness, leaving them stranded in a world governed by absurdity… Rejtman is a central figure of the New Argentine Cinema that emerged in the 1990s. Like those of his peers, his films are widely considered to address the societal ills ushered in by the neoliberal economic policies of the time.” But as Giovanni discovered in Locarno, Rejtman “rejected such a reading. He also rejected all philosophical readings right at the outset.”
No subtitles, I’m afraid
Because Two Shots Fired “begins with a young protagonist deciding to shoot himself, on a whim it seems, and then failing inexplicably at this attempt, I assumed initially that the movie was an embrace of that type of nihilism that examines the obvious senselessness of life with a necessarily detached precision,” writes Doug Dibbern in the Notebook. “Initially, I was upset that the movie’s nihilism failed to capture the throbbing excitement of its own philosophical possibilities…. When absurd elements start to creep into the story, I began to realize that the film was more complex than I originally thought.” Further in, “the narrative morphs, so that the focus moves from what we assumed was the protagonist onto a new group of people, some of whom seemed like minor characters earlier and some of whom are completely new.” Doug suggests that “by revealing the tenuous and shifting connections between these people only at the end, the film was teaching me to understand its own peculiarity.””A droll, careful, and formally consistent film, it otherwise hides its intentions beneath a web of seemingly helter-skelter plotting, opting for a progression of anecdotal, flatly rendered story fragments, linked only by family relationships, subtle recurring symbols, and a shared sense of low-key absurdity,” writes Jesse Cataldo for Slant. “Intermittently amusing and beguiling by turns, Two Shots Fired never becomes anything more, and while this apparent lack of coherence can be ascribed to the elusive subtlety Rejtman seems intent on pursuing, the lack of tangible dramatic follow-through leaves the film feeling incomplete, indistinguishable from so much other undercooked festival fare.””The first hint that the film is actually a supremely deadpan comedy comes when doctors can’t locate the bullet in the boy’s body, yet it still sets off every metal detector he passes,” writes Scout Tafoya at RogerEbert.com. “The hero’s attempted suicide is like a rock in the narrative’s shoe. For every event, kiss, argument, trip and slight reveal, the film remains about how little the event affected everyone, maybe the funniest joke in this often hilarious film.”
“Oscillating between the banal and the absurd in its portrait of Argentine bourgeoisie, the film’s unease and quiet paranoia are reminiscent of 2012’s Neighboring Sounds,” wrote Paul Dallas in a dispatch to Filmmaker from Locarno. More from Giovanni Melogli (Cineuropa). And John Hopewell talks with Rejtman for Variety.Update, 10/5: “Two Shots Fired meanders too much at times as it tells its various stories, but Rejtman has affection for his characters who slowly reveal their obsessions and impulses as they become more aware of themselves,” writes Gary M. Kramer for Film International. “Some viewers may feel the film goes nowhere slowly—and it does—but Rejtman’s goal is to communicate emotions that cannot be easily put into words. His film certainly scores on that count.”Update, 10/18: “Rejtman’s films use counter-intuitively elaborate structures to organize low-key comedy that initially seems inconsequential and lingers for months afterwards,” writes Vadim Rizov, introducing his interview at Filmmaker. “Though I’m not sure if Rejtman has an all-out Philosophy of Cinema he’s keeping to himself, I achieved a little clarity: he’s found a way to film scenes that interest him (he must, at least, find them funny), and connecting these disparate parts brings out all his ingenuity. It’s important to understand that in Argentina he’s revered (by a certain kind of similarly cinephilic viewer/filmmaker anyway) as someone who changed the country’s cinematic language, a director who can be talked about in terms of Cinema rather than modestly inconsequential drollery. Because there aren’t many English language interviews, I wanted to stretch out over the bigger arc of his career before honing in on this film as a potential decoder key, so we started with his initial training.”NYFF 2014 Index. For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @KeyframeDaily. Get Keyframe Daily in your inbox by signing in at fandor.com/daily.