"...a marvel of theatrical wit and ingenuity." - Mariano Pensotti at The New York Times Jan 20, 2015

by Erin

The New York Times on Mariano Pensotti's Cineastas:

Mr. Pensotti... was a screenwriter before becoming one of Argentina’s leading theater auteurs. And an affectionate and enlivening cynicism about the industry he once served infuses “Cineastas,” in which we watch four directors assembling four highly personal movies.

On the ground level of Mariana Tirantte’s two-tiered set, we observe the everyday lives of this foursome, all suffering from some form of existential crisis that they hope to resolve on film. The upper level is where those movies are acted out, suggesting animated thought bubbles from cartoons. A constant dialogue percolates between above and below, allowing us to assess just what is lost in the translation from real to reel.

Make that four dialogues. And then throw in the voice of an omniscient narrator, who annotates the action in the manner of an on-the-spot news reporter, filling in biographical details of the lives of the artists. The five cast members take turns assuming this role.

Otherwise, they are variously engaged in portraying the directors, the characters in those directors’ films and a staggering assortment of people in their professional and personal lives. Mr. Pensotti and his cast miraculously manage to keep the narrative lines clear and compelling, even as the characters become increasingly confused and despairing.

The films within the play are a motley lot, each a self-portrait of sorts. (My personal favorite is a revenge fantasy in which a man is kidnapped by terrorists, fed a diet of cold McDonald’s hamburgers and humiliatingly forced to dress up as Ronald McDonald, though the documentary about Soviet musicals is kind of divine, too.)

The most successful of the moviemakers is Gabriel, a middle-aged man who is told he has only months to live; his film will be his final testament. He finds himself photographing every object of personal significance. But later, looking at what he’s shot, he thinks unhappily of “how different a represented life and a real one are, of how art modifies all that he tries to portray.”

Read the rest of the article at The New York Times.

photo by Carlos Furman