L Words

Matías Piñeiro, The Princess of France, 2014, color, sound, 66 minutes. María Villar and Julián Larquier Tellarini.

IN MATÍAS PIÑEIRO’S elating The Princess of France, the precise attachments, romantic or otherwise, among the constellation of characters may be deliberately confusing, but the performers themselves, all part of the writer-director’s regular troupe, are exceptionally vivid. The third of Piñeiro’s ludic riffs on Shakespeare, following Rosalinda (2011) and Viola (2012), The Princess of France loosely revolves around the reunion of Victor (Julián Larquier Tellarini), who’s recently returned to Buenos Aires after a sojourn in Mexico, with the cast he directed in Love’s Labour’s Lost a year ago; he now has the funding to do the comedy as a radio play. Mounting this production becomes secondary, though, to the voluble players’ own tangentially related dramas, unfolding in the theaters—a street, a museum, a bed—of their choosing.

The protean nature of not just allegiances but also identities is a hallmark of Shakespeare’s comedies, of course, and Piñeiro cleverly signals this fluidity in the film’s opening minutes. A bravura fixed long take of a coed soccer match played on a concrete pitch—the game shot from a city rooftop and scored to the first movement of Schumann’s First Symphony—reveals two teams distinguished by neon yellow or orange vests. Although the number of brightly hued opponents is equal at first, by the scene’s end only one saffron-suited footballer remains, chased—perhaps menacingly, perhaps teasingly—by nearly a dozen competitors sporting lemon jerseys. This pursued athlete, named Lorena (Laura Paredes), removes her identifying garment in an alley, where a young man announces, “Come! It’s started,” and then whisks her into a theater to watch a rehearsal, well underway, of Love’s Labour’s Lost.

Viewers of The Princess of France will likewise feel that they are often witnessing incidents in medias res, though the sense of being unmoored from the mechanics of plot and backstory proves exhilarating, not confounding. As a web of current lovers, former girlfriends, and soon-to-be exes is spun around Victor shortly after his homecoming, the spectator remains utterly absorbed by losing herself in the cascade of utterances—whether digressions on the French nineteenth-century salon painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau; reflections on the inconstancy of desire; or dialogue from Shakespeare’s source play, considered his most linguistically dense—flowing forth from the performers. What makes these words so vital is that those delivering them rank among the most distinctive sounding in contemporary cinema; the actresses (who, as in Viola, are the main focus here, despite Victor’s prominence), especially possess deep, alluring timbres.

One of the most seductive speakers of español rioplatense, Elisa Carricajo, who plays Carla (and who set in motion Viola’s slinkiest moment), fittingly voices, while recalling her character’s first meeting of Victor on a crowded dance floor, the film’s sexiest line: “It was clear that we were going to kiss, but there was no hurry.” A similar atmosphere of languid or suspended eroticism permeates The Princess of France, which, during its fleet sixty-six minutes, performs a miraculous balancing act: In its liberating destabilization of time and action, Piñeiro’s film paradoxically draws viewers in closer, making them feel like co-conspirators in this intricate theater of intimacy.

The Princess of France opens Friday, June 26 in New York at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.