The playfulness and apparent "throw-away-ness" of Matías Piñeiro's Viola, its sense of wide-eyed aimlessness and openness to the world that surrounds its quasi-absence of plot is the key to the Argentine filmmaker's status as a darling of the cutting-edge film-critic community. And, indeed, there is a sense of freedom, an intriguing, almost fascinating incompleteness in the director's work, as well as a wry, deliberately off-beat comic sensibility, all of it coupled with an almost abstract feel, as if it were a sort of choreography of chaos. During its hour-long running time, I was reminded more than once of fellow Argentine Alejo Moguillansky's loopy, on-the-move Beckett homage Castro - and, not entirely unsurprisingly, Mr. Moguillansky is the editor of Viola, as indeed of most of Mr. Piñeiro's previous work.
The second in a group of films loosely inspired by Shakespeare after the medium-length Rosalinda, Viola is a non-linear riff on Twelfth Night that seems to make a perverse point out of going nowhere, preferring to design itself as a relay race between characters and situations loosely interconnected. Whatever plot there is is a series of meetings, conversations and near-misses between (mostly) young women in Buenos Aires, from a courier for her boyfriend's music playlist service (wittily called Metropolis) to an actress performing in a Shakespeare staging, as cleverly and breezily presented (Fernando Lockett's cinematography is a pleasure to behold) as it is head-scratchingly puzzling - not that a film can't be transported by mood alone, but for some reason Viola keeps tantalizing you with possibilities that it never truly follows through on. There's a sense that this is really a divertissement put on by a group of friends for their own pleasure, seemingly invented as they go along, leaving everything suspended in mid-air or mid-sentence. Whether you will fall under the spell of Mr. Piñeiro's film depends essentially on your own tolerance towards more free-spirited, non-linear propositions; personally, I found it as endearing and intriguing as frustrating.
Cast María Villar, Agustina Muñoz, Elisa Carricajo, Romina Paula, Laura Paredes, Gabi Saidón, Esteban Bigliardi, Julián Tello, Julia Martínez Rubio
Director and screenwriter Matías Piñeiro; cinematographer Fernando Lockett (colour); composers Mr. Tello and John Aylward; art director Agustina Costa; editor Alejo Moguillansky; producer Melanie Schapiro; production company Revolver Films in association with Universidad del Cine and Alta Definición Argentina
Screened November 11th 2013, Lisbon (Lisbon & Estoril Film Festival screener)
Trailer-Viola from Matias Piñeiro on Vimeo.