Sunday, May 21, 2017

Shakespeare, love, and a lot more mix in Matías Piñeiro's latest, HERMIA & HELENA

When I first saw Matías Piñeiro's charming, unusual and short (just 61 minutes) film, Viola, back in 2013, I was very taken with the work of this Argentine filmmaker. Since then Señor Piñeiro has made The Princess of France (all of 67 minutes) and now his latest film, HERMIA & HELENA, which lasts a nearly-normal 88 minutes. Unfortu-nately, he is not quite ready for full-length.

While his themes and concerns -- everything from Shakespeare to theater productions to love relationships of all sorts -- are on display, as usual, the movie runs downhill as it expands to include other Shakespearean devices such as the discovery of parentage.

As usual, the writer/director (shown at left) has again cast as his leading character, Camila, with the alluring and talented Augustina Muñoz (shown below), who provides beauty, appeal and some surprise as the young woman -- a theater grad student (or maybe already professional) working in New York City on a new Spanish translation of A Midsummer Night's Dream -- at the center of a whole bunch of ongoing and/or would-be relationships. Ms Muñoz, is always a pleasure to watch, but the actress cannot easily carry as much baggage as Piñeiro has given her here. All the relationships and characters we meet end up with so little weight or importance that they seem to disappear into thin air even as we're watching them. (Shakespeare could get away with this because he had such gorgeous, literate, amazing verbiage to offer. Piñeiro's dialog, while sometime clever, hardly comes close.)

Still, this worked well enough in Viola, where the themes were simply love and theater, and where the movie ended before it had time to curdle or bore. Here -- even with the added use of a little "magic" (à la that Midsummer Night's Dream) -- it all adds up to less than the sum of its many parts.

The scene involving the connection of Camila with the father she's never met proves so slight and bizarrely ungrounded by anything other than mere plot contrivance that what might be pivotal in most movies proves no more important nor deeply felt than anything else in the film.

The cast includes some of Piñeiro' usual Argentine actors, along with some new American and international actors (and filmmakers) from the indie scene such as Keith PoulsonDan SallittDustin Guy Defa and Mati Diop. Everyone comes through nicely. But the movie -- for all its charm, smart performances and lovely visuals -- simply floats away.

From Kino Lorber, in English and Spanish (with English subtitles), Hermia & Helena opens this coming Friday, May 26, at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Metrograph. Elsewhere? We'll have to wait and see. You can update the currently scheduled playdates by clicking here and then scrolling down.

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