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April 2 – April 4

The Comic Art of Martin Rejtman, or Love in the Time of Late Capitalism

The New Argentine Cinema that flourished in the 1990s, and whose transformational effects still resonate today, found its first true expression in the films of Martin Rejtman (b. 1961). A graduate of New York University’s influential film program, Rejtman anticipated the wave of film school-trained directors who would play such an important role in the reinvention of Argentine cinema. With his first feature, Rapado, Rejtman made an assertive break from the political orientation shaping much of Argentine cinema in the wake of the nation’s long, dark years of dictatorship. An assuredly meticulous, offbeat comedy about apathetic, drifting youth, Rapado pointed towards a deliberately minor cinema more engaged with the paradoxes of Argentina’s neoliberal present than the tangled legacies of its past. The popular and critical success of his subsequent films – the droll and wonderfully deadpan comedies Silvia Prieto and The Magic Gloves – cemented his reputation as the preeminent artist of the nuevo cine argentina with their wry and affectionately subtle satires of not quite young and not quite professional urbanites.

Rejtman is the only contemporary Argentine director to maintain a parallel career as a writer, with several celebrated collections of short stories to his name. Animated by a rich dialogue between literary and cinematic form, the epigrammatic logic and crystalline prose refined by Rejtman’s stories inspire and, in turn, are inspired by the elegant restraint of his films. An important touchstone for Rejtman is classical Hollywood cinema, and especially the screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s for which Rejtman has professed a great love and admiration. Indeed, like the screwball comedy, Rejtman’s cinema defines a delightfully unstable world governed entirely by its own internal logic in which the seemingly inconsequential is treated with the utmost seriousness and non-sequiturs unfold profound truths – in which identities and everyday objects circulate dizzily, gathering unexpected meaning and value along the way. Gentle yet astute satires of love in the age of the free market, Silvia Prieto and The Magic Gloves are each masterpieces of the miniature that reveal a philosophical adroitness and sophistication extremely rare in film comedy today. Most recently Rejtman has successfully turned to nonfiction with two entrancing documentaries, Copacabana and Entertainment for Actors that – until now – remain regretfully unseen in the United States.

The Harvard Film Archive is proud to welcome Martin Rejtman for the first U.S. retrospective of his films.

Special thanks: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, The David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Brad Epps. Support for Martin Rejtman's residency provided by the Melvoin Family Fund through Learning From Performers, Office for the Arts at Harvard.


Special Event Tickets $12
Friday April 2 at 7pm

Silvia Prieto

Directed by Martin Rejtman, Appearing in Person
With Rosario Bléfari, Valeria Bertuccelii, Susana Pampin
Argentina 1999, 35mm, color, 92 min. Spanish with English subtitles

Rejtman’s effervescent masterpiece is a glittering screwball-inspired comedy of shifting identities that centers around the ardent efforts of its strong-willed heroine to suddenly lead her life in a radically new direction. Buoyed by its fanciful, rapid-fire dialogue and an at times hilariously absurd story, Silvia Prieto is saturated in a pop sensibility that belies a fascination with bright logos, television slogans and the rich contradictions of consumer culture. Rejtman’s deep appreciation of nonprofessional actors led him to the popular Argentine singer and songwriter Rosario Bléfari, who brings a spontaneous grace to her portrayal of Silvia Prieto as a young woman spinning at a crossroads of her own design. Guided by Bléfari’s mellifluous voice in a rich and wonderfully disjointed voiceover, Silvia Prieto is a buoyant and affectionate portrait of romantic folly that, at its end, offers an unexpected hinge to Rejtman’s recent documentary work.

Copacabana

Directed by Martin Rejtman, Appearing in Person
Argentina 2006, video, 56 min. Spanish with English subtitles

A moving portrait of the Buenos Aires Bolivian community, Copacabana is Rejtman’s impressive first entry into nonfiction filmmaking. The formal restraint of Rejtman’s comedies is beautifully applied to this gently paced documentary that uses the carnival celebrations of the Virgin of Copacabana as an entry point into the vibrant Bolivian neighborhood. With its absence of voiceover and minimal dialogue, Copacabana interweaves the music and dance of the rehearsals and street celebrations into the daily lives and labor of the Bolivian immigrants who work with pride to preserve the memories and culture of their distant homeland.

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Special Event Tickets $12
Saturday April 3 at 7pm

Rapado

Directed by Martin Rejtman, Appearing in Person
With Ezequiel Cavia, Damian Dreizik, Mirta Busnelli
Argentina 1992, 35mm, color, 75 min. Spanish with English subtitles

Rejtman’s legendary feature debut became an instant cult sensation, immediately recognized as an authentic, iconic harbinger of a new sensibility in Argentine and Latin American filmmaking. Rapado boldly announced Rejtman’s signature laconic style with its restrained camera work, zero-degree performance style, crisply distilled dialogue and its careful structure of repetitions that both abstract and intensify the largely nocturnal world tightly contained within it. A close adaptation of the title entry from Rejtman’s eponymous collection of short stories, Rapado follows two, or perhaps three, days and late nights in the life of a young man still stuck at home and enervated by the pregnant decisions that seem to weigh down his every action. A droll and melancholy comedy of delayed reaction that captures the loneliness of the corner store and video arcade, Rapado’s poignant rendering of directionless youth merits comparison to the late, desolate masterworks of Aki Kaurismaki.

Elementary Training for Actors (Entrenemiento elemental para actores)

Directed by Martin Rejtman and Federico Leon.
With Matias Delgado Rizzi, Carlos Portaluppi, Fabian Arenillas
Argentina 2009, video, 62 min. Spanish with English subtitles

In his recent featurette, co-directed with Federico Leon, Rejtman offers a charming and witty essay about spontaneity, personality and performance that beautifully compliments the deadpan theatricality of his earlier films. Focused on an acting class for grade school children led by an exceptionally fervent instructor, Elementary Training unfolds a series of intense yet disarmingly simple exercises that awaken the children to the performative dimensions of everyday life.

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Special Event Tickets $12
Sunday April 4 at 7pm

The Magic Gloves (Los Guantes mágicos)

Directed by Martin Rejtman, Appearing in Person
With Gabriel Fernandez Capello, Valeria Bertucelli, Fabian Arenillas Argentina 2003, 35mm, color, 90 min. Spanish with English subtitles

A rich satire of midlife crisis and free market capitalism, The Magic Gloves is a wonderful chamber piece played between two dysfunctional couples who establish an oddly symbiotic relationship, exchanging advice and services in a roundabout economy of friendship and entrepreneurship. The Magic Gloves offers a more tightly controlled variation of Rejtman’s restrained aesthetic that transforms domestic and public spaces – the bar, the discotheque – into a stylized theater of displaced emotions and unexpected comedy.

Doli Goes Home (Doli vuelve a casa)

Directed by Martin Rejtman, Appearing in Person
With Martín Reyna, Rosario Bléfari, Marcelo Magnasco
Argentina 1986, b/w, 30 min. Spanish with English subtitles

An early black-and-white mood piece, Rejtman’s lyrical short film fuses a young couple’s passage into early adulthood with a journey through Buenos Aires in the quietest moments at the very break of day.

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