Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 7:30pm
Martín Rejtman and Federico León's Elementary Training for Actors + Lisandro Alonso's Untitled (Letter for Serra)
155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn
Introduced by Matías Piñeiro
Elementary Training for Actors, Martín Rejtman and Federico León, 2009, digital projection, 52 mins
Untitled (Letter for Serra), Lisandro Alonso, 2011, digital projection, 23 mins
Three simple questions.
I don’t know if Elementary Training for Actors by Martín Rejtman and Federico León and Untitled (Letter for Serra) by Lisandro Alonso have been shown before in the city. They probably have, but I am certain that they have never been shown together.
I believe these two films belong to different traditions within fiction film produced in the last decade in my country. One tradition that is nurtured by acting and one that is not. I also believe that they both pose the right questions about filmmaking. And that put side by side, they empower each other’s questionings, the force of their compositions and the strength of their playfulness.
I decided to show these two films from contemporary Argentine cinema because they raise three simple questions that sketch out the future of filmmaking.
What is a film?
Both films were not considered for showing in cinemas. Shot either on film or video they were conceived to be finished in video formats. One was part of a TV project for the public channel; first planned to be shown on TV and then given a limited release in a small playhouse in Buenos Aires. The other was part of a series of film-correspondences between filmmakers from all over the world meant to form a DVD box-set.
The length of both films, 52 and 23 minutes, marginalizes them to few and rare screenings. These are awkward objects, somehow uncomfortable and fragile, but that also represent a possible evolution for film appreciation.
What is an author?
Both are assignments where the sense of authorship is more or less blurred. They both offer different mise-en-scènes of the collaborative aspect of cinema.
In one case, there are two filmmakers signing: Martín Rejtman and Federico León. Rejtman is not only a filmmaker but also a novelist. An exception both in cinema and in literature, he has been a lonesome and fascinating lighthouse for many in search of direction and company. His collaborator, León, is not just a filmmaker but also a stage director and dramaturge. He has just premiered a new play called La última película.
They both seem to nurture their films with a dialogue between cinema, literature, and theater, exploring new configurations of Bazin’s praise of cinematic impurity.
In them, there seems to be a dual movement between the non-difference in the exercise of each art and a joy in the exposition of the actual differences.
In the other film, Lisandro Alonso is “in conversation” with Catalan filmmaker Albert Serra, and from within that dialogue another figure inadvertently appears in Alonso’s world of lonely men: Fabián Casas, the Argentine writer whose poems and short stories have been one of the axes of Argentine literature since the 90s, and who is now the screenwriter of Alonso’s new feature Jauja, which premieres next week in Cannes.
This short seems to be a prologue to the new film. It explores the preoccupations of a filmmaker moving towards new territories, providing itself with a sort of hybridity with which it achieves its most sensual findings.
The filmmaker of silent bodies, rigorous cutting, and diluted storylines puts his future partner in crime in front of the camera. As Casas enters into the wilderness that has characterized Alonso so well, he introduces a grain of sand into that machinery, an artifice that might have appeared in his previous films, but never so bluntly.
The filmed writer, reading from a text he has written, questions the filmmaker and extends an invitation to a new beginning.
What is an actor?
An actor once said that it was never wise to perform with a dog or a child, because they would inevitably steal the scene.
As true as this saying may be, I have never been comfortable with the idea that innocence or “unconsciousness” are a superior attribute in acting. Naturalness need not be the highest aim of a performer; nor that sort of innocence which is, in its origin, disguised manipulation and hidden fiction.
In these films there are both children and dogs playing against adults. And yet, no confrontation is made between them while they share the frame. Quite the opposite: these interactions do not diminish the performance of any of the participants in favor of the other, but rather enhance the scope of what acting can be in a film.
There is a manipulation exposed by these children that are not childish and these dogs that are not humanized. Each is placed in these films in a very unusual way. They are neither innocent nor naturalized. They are stray dogs moving at their will, looking at the camera, barking to the crew that makes a film alongside them. They are children behaving as responsible actors in a film; actors that play to be the actors whom they are not. These are ultimate performances, where there seems to be a serious and subtle enjoyment in the act of wearing a mask.
I have actually never seen these two films side by side myself.
I am looking forward to that dialogue, to a new collaboration between films, and hope that these lines made you feel welcomed to join in.
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1982, Matías Piñeiro studied at the Universidad del Cine, where he went on to teach filmmaking and film history. In 2011 he received the Radcliffe Institute Fellowship from Harvard University for his new film project, Sarmiento, Translator. He currently lives in New York on a New York University scholarship in creative writing. His films, recently the subject of a retrospective at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, include El hombre robado (2007), Todos mienten (2009), Rosalinda (2010), and Viola (2012). He is currently developing the third installment of his Shakespearean project, The Princess of France.
Tickets - $7, available at door.
Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.