Directly from Buenos Aires ... El señor William Shakespeare
The third film in Matías Piñeiro’s ongoing project of transforming Shakespearean comedies for the contemporary cinema, La princesa de Francia is an elegant roundelay set in a now-familiar milieu of a female-centric Buenos Aires. At the center of Piñeiro’s latest film, however, is Victor, a theater director who has returned early from a year abroad to restage his pasticcio of Shakespeare—the first act of which was performed in the previous Viola—for internet radio. Reuniting the original (mostly female) cast is complicated due to the romantic entanglements Victor has left behind, and the secret recouplings that have occurred in the interim. While Victor’s girlfriend, Paula, the play’s star, has gone into hiding, Victor has engaged in an email affair with the pregnant Ana, who is writing a thesis on the out-of-favor 19th century French painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau. (Oh, and Victor tells another actress that it’s not Ana, but Natalia, with whom he is now infatuated. Claro?)
Though the ins and outs are fast and furious, one is not daunted by Piñeiro’s super-verbal approach, because he’s mastered his way of storytelling (visually aided by the wonderful cinematography of Fernando Lockett, and the luminous presence of his actresses). La princesa de Francia is not an adaptation, but is inspired by the early comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost (just as Rosalinda took off from As You Like It, and Viola exists beneath Twelfth Night). Characters operate outside of realism, but even in their daydreams there’s a matter-of-factness, buoyed on by Piñeiro’s HONG Sang-soo like proclivity for repetition, loops, and comingling of everyday fantasy and reality. Piñeiro is ultimately interested in the artistic qualities to be found in everyday life, in faces, in the city. And don’t miss the epilogue.
“The film and the theater are independent, but I make them have a dialogue. The play is called pasticcio, which is a patchwork of many plays, developed as if it were a single piece. I took one act from each play—Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night, Midsummer Night's Dream, Love's Labour's Lost, and As You Like It. I took one scene, the "sentimental line" from Acts One, Two, Three, Four, and Five, and I mixed them together with four actresses doing all of the characters. But in order to follow each path, I decided to have one name for each [actress], so it was Bassanio, Olivia, Silvio, and—I don't remember the last two! It's classical and so well structured—there's a beginning, a conflict where characters are put to a test, and then there's an ending, a resolution.”
La princesa de Francia is the result of eight years of working together with the same crew and actors. I realize now that these very fictional films we are still developing may end up being a dense document of how are we growing up together.