Winner of this year’s Buenos Aires fest competition, “Pin Boy” quietly depicts Argentina’s have-nots in the person of a young man who sets pins in a bowling alley. Director Ana Poliak confirms the promise of her first film, “The Faith of the Volcano,” and her talent for viewing society’s dispossessed with a rigorous but compassionate eye. Shocking but not preachy or exploitative, pic forces the viewer into close quarters with borderline poverty; like the best Argentinian films, it raises more questions than it answers about the social order. Not the stuff of box office hits, continued festival exposure may garner pic limited release.
Over the opening credits, Adrian (Adrian Suarez) sits stark naked on an examining table, calmly accepting this indignity to be judged fit for the job of pin boy. As gruff old-timer Nippur informs him, it’s a dangerous, low-paying, physically exhausting job and there’s no insurance for broken legs.
Essentially, the work involves perching in the narrow passageway behind the alley while bowlers throw balls at you, then hastening to set the pins up fast to get a tip rolled down with the last ball. However, half the bowling alley has already converted to an automatic pinsetter, adding a note of man-vs.-machine competition.
As Adrian works at night, he can time-share the single bed in the tiny apartment of his cousin Nancy (Nancy Torres). Their smooth, almost tender relationship replaces a romantic one which, at least in Adrian’s case, is beyond his possibilities.
Totally lacking in dramatic conflict, the film unfolds without much rhythm. Victor “Kino” Gonzalez’s camera instead finds interest in closely observing Suarez’s innocent young face. Like Nippur, the aging hippie who initiates him into the pinsetter’s art, he finds his measure of freedom and responsibility in performing his humble task well. Or perhaps he’s just unconscious of being victimized. The final shot seems symbolic of his resilience to hard knocks.
Entire film is shot in the cramped locations of the apartment and bowling alley, using a fixed camera that further limits itself to only a few angles. It’s a subtle way to convey the limited lives led by those at the other end of prosperity.