Three D (Tres D): Rotterdam Review

Courtesy of El Carro
A witty, light-of-touch look at the surreal dynamics of film festivals that’s also a fine example of the kind of free-spirited, quietly defiant films it’s defending.

Romance, film, and the romance of film are at the heart of Rosendo Ruiz’s fiction-documentary hybrid shot during a small-town Argentinian film festival.

At one point in Three D, a critic discusses whether directors design their movies to appeal to festivals, and the film itself, with its festival setting and its filmic concerns, could be accused of doing just that. But thankfully this fresh, winning item doesn’t come over as in the least self-regarding.

An example of the movement some are calling the New Cordoban Cinema -- named after films from that region of Argentina which have started to make a wider impact throughout Latin America -- Three D is transparent, engaging and deceptively simple, mixing up a standard will-they-won't they romance with a festival setting which it uses a forum for debate about the meaning of film. Though in its details it’s very much Argentinian, and specifically Cordoban, fare, its broader concerns and wry observations about film and film makers could lead to pickups at festivals, which would be Three D’s natural home.

Tousle-haired and with an appealingly otherworldly air, Matias (Matias Luduena) rolls up with his camera at the Cosquin Film festival in Cordoba province with the aim of shooting interviews with directors and other fest fauna. There, following some farcical confusion about rooms, he meets Lorena (Lorena Cavicchia), a film buff to whom he recommends Fango, by the director Jose Campusano, who also plays a part in the film: as in Ruiz’s first film, the very different, more frenetic Clubbing, the cast seems to be composed of people playing themselves, or people who might as well be doing so.

As well as having a one-night stand with one of his interviewees, Matias also bumps into the sparky Mica (Micaela Ritacco), a friend with film ambitions who joins him for the ride, and who ends up auditioning for Campusano. All of this is shot with the intimacy of fly-on-the-wall documentary.

If it all sounds a little incestuous, then it is: so far, so Gallic comedy romance, with the cast delivering winsome perfs and generally coming over as spontaneous as their non-pro status would imply. But intercut into the story are several to-camera sequences from Matias’ interviews – with movie people such as directors, including Campusano himself, Gustavo Fontan and Nicolas Prividera, as well as with a veteran critic (Jorge Garcia), a film projectionist (Luis Nogues) and others.

Three D thus spills over into being a reflection on, and a homage to, cinema which, although too broad in its focus, at least brings into the open the variety of perspectives on film and the film industry that any festival is inevitably home to.  The directors tend to come over as a little over-earnest and self-regarding, but sincere in their belief that their films can be vehicles for important ideas and not just for money; Garcia offers the interesting opinion that for most film critics, himself presumably not included, the movies began with When Harry Met Sally; Noguera, one of a dying breed in the age of digital (the film touches on both the value and dangers of the ease with which films can now be made), touchingly and nostalgically recounts how he found his way as a projectionist.

At the same time the film is gently mocking of the silly hierarchies and hypocrisies that ripple through the star system even at its margins. One lovely little scene has Matias insisting that Lorena explain to Campusano’s face why she didn’t like his film. His slightly hurt reaction is comically ironical, coming from a director who has earlier in the movie stated that film making is all about forging bonds between people.

The title refers to the movie’s insistence on glasses as a theme, as things to see with and be seen in, as things we use both to project an image and to hide behind. Music is often lively, jangling indie pop, but a simple piano motif is also used. Editing by Ruiz, Ramiro Sonzini and Leandro Naranjo is key to keeping things moving seamlessly between its fictional and documentary sequences.

Production: El Carro, Dia de Fiesta Cine, Cacique Argentina
Cast: Matias Luduena, Micaela Ritacco, Lorena Cavicchia, Maura Sajeva, Eduardo Leyrado, Jose Campusano
Director, screenwriter: Rosendo Ruiz
Producers: Ines Moyano, Carla Briasco, Florencia Bastida
Director of photography: Pablo Gonzalez Galetto
Production designer: Julia Pesce, Carolina Bravo
Editor: Ramiro Sonzini, Ruiz, Leandro Naranjo
Music: MCTP
Sound: Atilio Sanchez
Sales: El Carro
No rating, 87 minutes