In La princesa de Francia, ‘cinematic choreography’ acquires a whole new meaning
La princesa de Francia, winner of Best Film in the Argentine competition in this year’s BAFICI, is Matías Piñeiro’s third Shakespearian outing, following Rosalinda and Viola. It is also one that comes with two significant variations: it has a male protagonist and it’s narrated from several different points of view. It’s also a film where the camerawork is more dynamic and visuals are as important as the dialogue.
Victor (Julián Larquier) is a young theatre director with a penchant for radio broadcasts (another new addition) of Shakespearian versions. He is desired by several women at once, all of them actresses: his current girlfriend, his ex-girlfriend, his lover, his friend, and a lover he had long, long ago. After living in Mexico for a year, Víctor returns to Buenos Aires because of his father’s death. He wants to put together a small company for a project involving a series of radio broadcasts loosely based on the last play he directed.
Being desired by so many women at once, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that new romantic relationships are likely to surface in addition, perhaps, to rekindling previous ones. Not that they all will indeed transpire, but there are many possibilities that could lead to both joys and disappointments — because love is unpredictable.
Musical and pictorial references — Schumann and Bouguereau among them — together with an uncanny sense of mise-en-scene where less is more, gripping cinematography by Fernando Lockett, and finely-tuned performances by Agustina Muñoz, Romina Paula, María Villar, and Laura Paredes make up an unclassifiable feature where the term “cinematic choreography” acquires a whole new meaning. Not to mention the witty dialogue rhythmically uttered at the speed of light that encompasses the characters’ erratic — and sometimes circular — movements. This time, every single aspect of the language of cinema has been very well executed.
And like Piñeiro’s previous features, La princesa de Francia is a highly stylized work; although it goes for a spontaneous air when it comes to the characters’ way of speaking and behaving, it also deliberately stresses its strong formalism and artifice — like some of the auteurs from the Nouvelle Vague did, as they were also concerned with sentimental liaisons. Here style predominates over content, and while the artistry is to be praised, it may also become undesirably overwhelming and somewhat monotonous for some. Perhaps more emphasis on the drama than on manners would make a more balanced feature, one that doesn’t call so much attention to its film form.
Then again, that would mean making a different film from the one Piñeiro wanted to make, that is to say one, a film that would cater to a more general audience. Which doesn’t make any sense, since any artist has to express himself any which way he or she wants. Personally, I didn’t find La princesa de Francia too engaging or particularly interesting, despite its many formal achievements. But it’s precisely their formal achievements what make it quite a good film. Whether you like it or not is an altogether different issue.
Where and when
Sala Leopoldo Lugones (Av. Corrientes 1530) / MALBA Museum (Av. Pres. Figueroa Alcorta 3415), Friday at 8 pm.
La princesa de Francia (Argentina, 2014). Written and directed by Matías Piñeiro. With Julian Larquier Tellarini, Agustina Muñoz, Pablo Sigal, Gabriela Saidón, Romina Paula, María Villar. Cinematography: Fernando Lockett. Art direction: Sebastián Schjaer. Running time: 70 minutes.