Viola: An Argentine Charmer


Runs Fri., Nov. 1–Thurs., Nov. 7 at Northwest Film Forum. Not rated. 65 minutes.

My vote for most delightful movie ending of the year goes to Matías Piñeiro’s Viola, the latest from this spirited young Argentinian director. Even if the film’s unfolding is sometimes puzzling, by the time we reach the tuneful conclusion, sheer charm has won the day. Not that it takes long to reach the end. Viola runs just 65 minutes, as though it leaves out the explanatory material that might make its world more accessible. Basically, we meet a group of Buenos Aires young people, many of whom are actors working on a Shakespeare production that includes pieces from different plays. The show has an all-female cast, and the film itself is much more interested in its women than its men. One character, Viola (María Villar, a wonderful straight-faced presence), runs a DVD-pirating service with her boyfriend and delivers her goods by bicycle around the city. The casual storyline comes close to bringing together its different elements when Viola finds herself in a car with two of the actresses from the stage play. This conversation is surreal for a few reasons, but as they go along talking about the possibility that the humble bike messenger might actually star in the play they’re working on, you might begin to wish that life really worked like this.

Piñeiro was 30 when he made the film, and it’s already his fourth feature—if you count the 43-minute 2011 film Rosalinda, which also put Shakespeare rehearsals at the center of a mixed-up plot. His use of literary quotations and elliptical storytelling suggest that he doesn’t go along with old-fangled notions of serving up narrative, yet he manages to bring together his threads in oddly satisfying ways. (That’s where the delightful ending comes in.) Even when his movies are hard to track, something about them conjures a youthful breezy, try-anything energy. It isn’t just larking about—it’s more a sense that the old methods aren’t working, so let’s try something else. This creative underclass of young Argentinians might exist only in Piñeiro’s imagination, but that’s not a bad place to be.

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