'The Princess of France' ('La Princesa de Francia'): Locarno Review

Courtesy of Festival del film Locarno
A bourgeois bohemian director is all that Argentinean women want in this seductive if light-on-story romantic drama. 

Matias Pineiro's third Shakespeare-inspired film reunites his regular troupe of actors, including Julian Larquier Tellarini ("Rosalinda"), Maria Villar ("Viola") and Agustina Munoz

LOCARNO – Shakespeare in Spanish is the glue that holds together The Princess of France (La Princesa de Francia), the third film inspired by of one of the Bard’s works from writer-director Matias Pineiro, after Rosalinda and Viola. Again featuring a largely female cast, this meandering romantic roundelay offers an intimate portrayal of a handful of actresses who all gravitate around a young director who works with them on a radio version of "Love’s Labour’s Lost."

Though the filmmaking has lost none of Pineiro’s casual seductiveness, there is a sense that reading the subtitled version of a contemporary Argentinean Spanish translation of Shakespeare’s text is akin to playing a game of telephone with the work of the English language’s most revered author, which might pose a marketing challenge for U.S. distributor Cinema Guild — though their experience on Viola could at least partially offset the problem when they release The Princess of France in early 2015.

The most language-obsessed of all of Shakespeare’s plays is perhaps also the most difficult to translate, let alone then translating it back into the original language (for the subtitles) while infusing the words with a sense of what the contemporary Rio de la Plata Spanish version adds to the material — all the while without losing what makes Shakespeare sound like Shakespeare. Invariably, something is lost in translation along the way.

Princess’s protagonist is the bohemian bourgeois beanpole Victor (Julian Larquier Tellarini, from Rosalinda), who has finally returned to Buenos Aires after the death of his father in Mexico, and who wants to continue his dad’s work in the theater. Like the male leads of Labour, he hopes not to be distracted by women and their wiles but of course that’s exactly what happens. Once in town, Victor reconnects with not only his girlfriend, Paula (Agustina Munoz, a Pineiro regular), who’s secretly tempted by someone else, but also with several other women, all actresses that work with him on his proposed radio play version of "Love’s Labour’s Lost."

The women include Victor’s ex, Natalia (Romina Paula), who might still carry a torch for him; Ana (Maria Villar, the titular lead from Viola), his lover; the newly hired unknown Carla (Elisa Carricajo); and Natalia’s friend Lorena (Laura Paredes), who, like Carla, seems interested in more than just Victor’s stage directions.

Like in Pineiro’s previous films, there a sense that the viewers are just listening in on a succession of scenes featuring eloquent, well-educated and art-savvy youngsters from Argentina’s middle-class undergoing — "struggling with" is definitely too strong a term — various amorous travails. What’s onscreen is often more noteworthy for the particular atmosphere, mood and language rather than any particular role the characters or events might be playing in moving the overall narrative forward.

Indeed, the characters are initially also hard to get a handle on, firstly because it’s difficult to distinguish between the five women and their precise relationship status with Victor at any given time, and secondly, because they are playing actresses rehearsing for and then actually performing roles and therefore aren’t always themselves. The film underlines the fluidity of romantic attachments for contemporary Argentineans, more than occasionally — and certainly not coincidentally — bringing to mind the complexity of the amorous allegiances in the Bard’s work.

Since Victor’s directing a radio play, more attention than usual is paid to sound, while the production design and especially Fernando Lockett’s luxuriant camerawork are again beguiling on a budget.

Pineiro's next Shakespearean project is Helena & Hermia, an English-language film inspired by the female characters in A Midsummer Night's Dream

Production companies: Trapecio Cine, Portable Films, Universidad del cine, Alta Definicion Argentina, I-SAT

Cast: Julian Larquier Tellarini, Agustina Munoz, Pablo Sigal, Gabriela Saidon, Romina Paula, Maria Villar, Elisa Carricajo, Laura Paredes

Writer-Director: Matias Pineiro

Producer: Melanie Schapiro

Director of photography: Fernando Lockett

Production designer: Ana Cambre

Editor: Sebastian Schjaer

Composers: Julian Tello, Julian Larquier, Juan Chacon

No rating, 66 minutes