“Don’t you find it rather boring,” an actress asks near the beginning of Matías Piñeiro’s Viola, “to have everything so under control?” Piñeiro, whose quietly radical films betray the restlessness of their creator, might well have written this question as a tacit critique of his contemporaries, admonishing the too-common tendency of modern arthouse filmmakers to formalize their style into rigorous oblivion. Viola, while thoughtful and intelligent, places simple pleasures over needlessly complicated ones, emphasizing the beauty of its players and the sumptuous photography that captures them. Its ideas are dense and somewhat heady—Piñeiro gracefully layers a melange of Spanish-translated Shakespearean dialogue atop snatches of original conversation without clarifying his citations, blending characters and performances so that the texts intermingle—but their articulation is so elegant, worked into the fabric of the film so organically, that its richness never seems strained. Viola‘s hour-long running time contains little in the way of plot or action, and its only major event concerns the duplicitous efforts of a young woman to seduce her colleague in order to prove a point about romance and attraction, confined to a single sequence. And yet the world the film describes is so vividly realized that it seems to spill over the edges of the frame, as if the lives of its characters will continue after the credits roll. Piñeiro’s Buenos Aires is a kind of bohemian paradise, a thriving community of artists, actors, and musicians living a life of perpetual art and leisure; his portrait of the city is as fond as it is fantastic. This sense of life as a series of intimate encounters and lively conversations recalls Éric Rohmer, a likely influence on Piñeiro’s sensibility—and it isn’t difficult to imagine their films intermingling.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 10, 2013