'Kekszakallu': Film Review | NYFF 2016

Courtesy of Venice International Film Festival
A lethargic, experimental drama.

Gaston Solnicki's debut narrative feature abstractly depicts the day-to-day lives of several young Argentine women.

Argentine filmmaker Gaston Solnicki's debut narrative feature Kekszakallu, recently showcased at the New York Film Festival, poses an interesting conundrum for a critic. A plot description for the bewildering, experimental drama feels almost impossible, so I'm going to excerpt from the official synopsis:

"Kékszakállú is an unconventional portrayal of several young women witnessed in immersive yet indeterminate states: within their bodies, among their friends and lovers, and ultimately in a culture of economic and spiritual recession. The torpor of boredom and privilege is undercut by the vicissitudes of Argentina’s economic malaise, forcing the offspring of a vanishing upper class to extricate themselves from the props of familial privilege. The film presents a documentary-like exposure of the quotidian while extending possibilities for redemption among this brood of the weary. Obliquely inspired by Bela Bartok’s sole opera, Kékszakállú radically transposes the portent of Bluebeard’s Castle into something far less recognizable: a tale of generational inertia, situated between the alternating and precisely rendered tableaux of work and repose in Buenos Aires and Punta del Este."

Fortunately, it's easier to get through the film itself than the description, although not by much. The movie depicts the day-to-day lives of several comely young women (often in various states of undress) and the men in their orbit as they experience periods of both recreation and work. The thematic links to Bartok's opera, passages of which are used throughout on the soundtrack, are tenuous at best, inexplicable at worst.

A minimalist, cinematic tone poem, the film eschews narrative structure in favor of attempting to convey the emotional states of its thinly drawn characters as they enter adulthood. The dreamlike images are certainly arresting, whether they're showing the young woman frolicking in a pool, studying for exams, working in a factory or engaging in household activities. The proceedings are marked by a sensuous, tactile quality that, for a while at least, holds your attention even if you don't really know what's going on.

But a little of this sort of thing goes a long way, and despite its brief, 72-minute running time, the lethargic, repetitive film's themes of alienation and ennui are all too easily transferred to the viewer.       

Venue: New York Film Festival
Production companies: Filmy Wiktora, Frutacine
Cast: Laila Maltz, Katia Szechtman, Lara Tarlowski, Natali Maltz, Maria Soldi, Pedro Trocca, Denise Groesman
Director: Gaston Solnicki
Producers: Ivan Eibuszyc, Gaston Solnicki
Directors of photography: Diego Poleri, Fernando Lockett
Editors: Alan Segal, Francisco D'Eufemia
Composer: Bela Bartok

Not rated, 72 minutes