Matías Piñeiro (b. 1982) is a key member of the latest wave of talented directors enlivening the perennially youthful Argentine cinema. Sharing a similar predilection for formally innovative and often daringly experimental filmmaking as such otherwise diverse Argentine directors Lisandro Alonso (b. 1975), Mariano Llinás (b. 1975) and Alejo Moguillansky (b. 1978), Piñeiro has written and directed two critically acclaimed and interlocked fiction films that together offer an ambitious yet artfully playful meditation on narrative, performance and history. Piñeiro’s intricately structured and skillfully topographical narratives reveal plots within plots, unfolding entrancing mirror games that render characters and plot as smooth surfaces over which meanings glide and ricochet, resisting easy interpretation. A driving force of The Stolen Man and They All Lie is Piñeiro’s fascination with modern Argentine history and the figure of the nineteenth century intellectual and educational reformer Domingo Faustino Sarmiento (1811-1888) whose influential writings are obsessively read and recited, in fragmentary fashion, throughout both films. Rather than inert artifacts, however, Sarmiento’s journals and essays are reinvented in Piñeiro’s films as shimmering “hypertexts,” baroque would-be screenplays that inspire his impulsive characters towards elaborate schemes. Simultaneous to his spirited engagement with the historical past is Piñeiro’s affectionate embrace of the present embodied by his ebullient and puckish young heroines whose willful yet ultimately wayward desires lead them through the dizzying labyrinths of their own imagination.
Directed by Matías Piñeiro. With Ana Cambre, Francisco García Faure,
Daniel Gilman Calderón
Argentina 2007, 35mm, b/w, 90 min. Spanish with English subtitles
Piñeiro’s sparkling debut film breathlessly follows a clever, capricious young woman as she carefully interweaves friends and lovers into an intricate web of secretive yet often unexpectedly compassionate games. Together with her best friend and fellow tour guide at a rival Buenos Aires historical museum, Piñeiro’s headstrong heroine attempts to tame the unpredictable course of her heart, eccentrically drawing inspiration from Sarmiento’s magnum opus, Facundo. With its grainy 16mm black-and-white cinematography, its political sub- and super-texts and its compelling portrait of impetuous youth, The Stolen Man recalls the alternately sober and sprightly nouvelle vague of Jean Eustache and Jacques Rivette.
Directed by Matías Piñeiro. With Romina Paula, María Villar,
Julia Martínez Rubio
Argentina 2009, digital video, color, 75 min. Spanish with English subtitles
A more abstract counterpart of The Stolen Man, Piñeiro’s second feature unleashes eight strong-willed characters into a clandestine plot involving art forgery, an unfinished novel and Sarmiento’s US journals, resulting in a giddy kaleidoscope of differed meaning that playfully channels the high postmodernism of William Gaddis. Piñeiro explores a cool stylistic restraint in They All Lie,deploying precision mise-en-scene to transform the rambling country house that is the film’s sole location into a series of inter-nested boxes and closets in which strange skeletons inevitably await. With their zealous embrace of Sarmiento’s introspective writings, Piñeiro’s youthful and self-absorbed characters once again become the delightfully improbable vehicles for thoughtful reflections on the history of modern Argentina.