María Villar and Julián Larquier Tellarini in Matías Piñeiro’s “The Princess of France.” | CINEMA GUILD
Gay Argentine Matías Piñeiro is one of the most exciting film directors and writers to emerge out of the South American nation in the past decade. His films are intimate romances that involve repetition and role-playing as affairs of the heart play out against a literary backdrop. His latest film, “The Princess of France,” may be his best.
A charming love story, the film has Victor (Julián Larquier Tellarini), identified as “an actor,” perform a radio production of a play he and several female friends mounted a year before. As Victor reunites with Paula (Augustina Muñoz), his girlfriend, Natalia (Romina Paula), his ex-girlfriend, Ana (María Villar), his lover, and Lorena (Laura Paredes), a friend, audiences are thrown into a romantic roundelay, picking up threads from the various relationships as the film unfolds and circles back.
Matías Piñeiro, gay Argentine filmmaker, driven by love of novel solutions for narrative
Piñeiro frames his romance with an overture by Schumann and an epilogue from Shakespeare, and includes a discussion of Bougeureau’s painting and snippets from “Love’s Labour’s Lost.”
The filmmaker spoke about making “The Princess of France” via Skype.
GARY M. KRAMER: Your films include many texts, and you use a visual medium to represent them. How do you conceive of and construct your stories?
MATÍAS PIÑEIRO: I like the paradox of text in film. It is hard for cinema to deal with text, so film has to use the options it has to create a new way of telling a story that can include a text. The paradox is that cinema is a visual medium, and text seems to work against that. It pushes me to find an alternative way of telling a story, and that’s exciting. I put that in my research — it’s a key frame — the first material from which I can develop a narrative.
GMK: Your films are intimate, and emphasize mood over plot. Can you discuss how you approach narrative and atmosphere?
MP: You start to see that there’s a hierarchy. It’s not plot and the rest comes after; it’s creating a mood, a rhythm. It’s not that one element is more important than the other; it’s more democratic. The construction of a character won’t stop me from having the right tone and rhythm. I’m not that interested in building characters in a more conventional way, with pasts and psychological profiles and dramatic arcs. I’m not attracted to that. So that helps me create equilibrium between plot and rhythm. They should not be contrasted but fused, like content and form. They should be mixed.
GMK: One of the themes of your films is the element of repetition. Why do you rely so much on repetition?
MP: Because I like ambiguity. Because it’s opening possibilities — there’s not one truth or path. The moment you deliver options, the world broadens, and that includes [the chance for] the spectator to choose or contradict. The narrative gets dense. They can be talking about love and it is not superficial. It includes the spectator. There is no unique way of seeing things. In “Princess of France,” the repetition of the same scene is a montage that produces an eeriness which unsettles the force of what we are watching. I like including doubt in film.
Film and photography are very concrete. So it becomes natural to question this by thinking how doubt and ambiguity can be introduced to them. Repetition helps me do that. Especially in regard to theater and film, where repetition is part of their nature and artifice.
GMK: Another theme is the idea of fragmentation. You seem to tease out scenes and meanings, leaving them open to interpretation. You also throw viewers into a scenario, letting them work out the relationships and the characters at their own pace. Can you explain your strategy here?
MP: I move fast [dropping viewers into the film] because people have seen other films where characters who are sisters and brothers or lovers have been introduced, and I don’t need to do that again. It’s a challenge to figure out the relationships between the characters, but it’s nice to be invited to a challenge. It’s not that I’m not paying attention to it; I just find other ways to provide the information. I don’t have to introduce them. Let’s move forward and people will catch up. Viewers are not stupid.
It’s a chore for me to be condescending or create a dialogue on that expository, didactic level. I hate that when I watch a film, or when a film has clichés and irony. I treat my spectators as I want to be treated myself. We’ve seen so many things in the media. I don’t think I have to be bureaucratic. Entertainment is subjective. I don’t want to be dull.
GMK: You are openly gay. Do you ever plan to make a film about a gay man?
MP: In one sense… I will do it. And I will keep making films. Everything is not put in one film. How do you move away from a cliché or something expected? Can you queer the heterosexual part, like having strong female roles? I don’t want to fall into a category of making gay films, but queer characters can have a space in the films I do. It just hasn’t happened yet.
I have been more interested in not trying to make something for marketing. I don’t like that, so that has kept me away from that. But that shouldn’t make me rigid in not including, but more how you include it. I have to find a way of how to include them without being part of a market or exploiting the topic. I don’t feel I can do that yet. I have to find the way of doing it that I would like.
GMK: Your films are often about love, longing, affairs, and kissing, kissing, kissing. What’s with all the kissing montages in your films!? Are you an incurable romantic?
MP: I think it’s something I like. It can be photographed easily and in a realistic way. If they had sex — and they wouldn’t have real sex — it’s boring to see them doing it “as if.” So filming sex is harder for me, and it has to be comfortable. I don’t want them to get naked if they don’t want to, but I will include it when it’s comfortable and it flows. The intimacy is confirmed with a kiss. Of course I like sex, but kissing is very economical in the narrative; it is passionate without being overdone.
THE PRINCESS OF FRANCE | Directed by Matías Piñeiro | In Spanish and Italian with English subtitles | Cinema Guild | Opens Jun. 26 | Film Society of Lincoln Center, 165 W. 65th St. | filmlinc.com