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Altered Fates

Another example of understated smartcom, included in the Walter Reade's current Latin American roundup, Martin Rejtman's Silvia Prieto is set in a world of Buenos Aires slackers. The unsmiling 27-year-old title character (Rosario Blefari, a fixture on the local indie rock–experimental theater scene) is a curious mixture of depression and spontaneity, living a life at once reductively organized and totally haphazard.

Although no particular emphasis is placed on local color in the movie's Buenos Aires, a place of cheap restaurants and small apartments, it is a sort of surreal city symphony nonetheless. Silvia's milieu is circumscribed by absurd coincidences, meaningless transactions, and the aimless circulation of objects—an Armani sports jacket, a bottle of shampoo, a souvenir china doll. That the latter comes to be known as Silvia Prieto is indicative of Rejtman's interest in the fluid nature of identity. (His Buenos Aires is less Evita's tangoville than the city of Jorge Luis Borges.)

As the human Silvia Prieto misplaces her ID and rival "Silvia Prietos" proliferate, other characters lose their names altogether. Silvia and a look-alike called Brite, after the detergent samples she hands out on street corners, lackadaisically trade ex-husbands (who then turn out to be former schoolmates). Returning to Argentina from mysterious Los Angeles, Brite's ex reverts to the inexplicable childhood nickname "Bottle Lamp," then, with the casual causality that characterizes the entire project, swaps fates with someone else.

The secret of my success: Bridges and Brooks in The Muse
courtesy of October Films
The secret of my success: Bridges and Brooks in The Muse

Details

'The Muse'
Directed by Albert Brooks
Written by Brooks and Monica Johnson
A USA Films release
Opens August 27

'Silvia Prieto'
Written and directed by Martin Rejtman
At the Walter Reade, August 28 through 31

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Rejtman's scenes are often based on trifling non sequiturs; his low-key compositions feel studied without seeming especially rigorous. The lighting is dependably flat; it's the sense of alternate lives that casts the shadows.

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