Dollops of dry comedy and a few well-observed sequences aren't enough to jumpstart this lackluster pic.

Ana Katz tries to capture the aimlessness of a woman separated from her b.f. at the start of a romantic getaway, who then must learn to live without him in sophomore feature “A Stray Girlfriend.” But Katz’s Antonioni-style pic fails to get beneath the surface of a character who is undergoing a subtle but real transition in her life. Dollops of dry comedy and a few well-observed sequences aren’t enough to jumpstart this lackluster pic, skedded for an early June local run after an indifferent Un Certain Regard preem at Cannes.

Katz plays Ines, an early thirtysomething city gal first seen fighting with b.f. Miguel (Daniel Hendler) on a bus headed for a small resort town. An entire relationship of false expectations and tone-deaf communication is succinctly revealed as the two argue. Thinking he wants to get off at a stop, Ines disembarks ahead of Miguel; but when he doesn’t follow and the bus roars off, she realizes their holiday is in jeopardy.

Making the best of a bad situation, Ines checks in at their reserved hotel. But when Miguel finally answers his phone, his cold, standoffish tone suggests he has no intention of reuniting with her, and even worse — that he want to end things between them without saying it in so many words.

Terribly hurt, Katz’ Ines must figure out what to do next. But an intriguing premise that opens a fascinating range of emotional and cinematic possibilities is followed by a flat and listless midsection that never ventures to the heart of the matter — namely, what Ines wants from life.

Where Antonioni might have drawn a visual correlative to Ines’ wanderings amid a group of people at the resort, perhaps suggesting a crisis of purpose in a modern world that has lost its center, none of that subtext exists here. And while lonely local German (Carlos Portaluppi) pathetically follows Ines wherever she goes, his amusing, if sad, actions are underplayed to the point of negation, as if little more than a sideshow, even though they consume a major chunk of the pic’s slim 80-minute playing time.

Katz shows Ines approaching the beach and shoreline several times, but symbolically never dipping her toe in the ocean until her father (Arturo Goetz) and sis Tati (Violeta Urtizberea) show up to meet her. The pic’s ending seems entirely too facile for what has gone before.

Subtext is everything in a role like this, and — like her work as director and co-writer (with Ines Bortagaray) — Katz is a fair enough actor to suggest some of Ines’ inner dimensions, though hardly all of them. Portaluppi’s friend/suitor is a fine, subtle study in male frustrations, though he ends up getting lucky in a surprising turn.

Widescreen lensing by the gifted Lucio Bonnelli (“Fantasma,” “A Year Without Love”) tends to narrow on Ines, undercutting Katz’s choice of a ‘scope format. Nicolas Villamil’s nervous-sounding score is terrific.

A Stray Girlfriend

Argentina-Spain

Production

A Primer Plano release (in Argentina) of a Bodega Films presentation in association with Flehner Films and Mediapro. (International sales: Primer Plano Film Group, Madrid.) Produced by Ana Katz. Executive producers, Carolina Konstantinovsky. Directed by Ana Katz. Screenplay, Ines Bortagaray, Katz.

Crew

Camera (Technicolor, widescreen), Lucio Bonelli; editor, Andres Tambornino; music, Nicolas Villamil; production designer, Mariela Ripodas; costume designer, Roberta Pesci; sound (Dolby Digital), Jesica Suarez; associate producers, Nicolas Tacconi, Jorge Llama Somoza, Pablo Wisznia, Maria Ines Japas; assistant director, Adriana Vior. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard), May 25, 2007. Running time: 85 MIN.

With

Ana Katz, Carlos Portaluppi, Daniel Hendler, Catherine Biquard, Arturo Goetz, Marcos Montes, Erica Rivas, Violeta Urtizberea, Silvina Sabater.

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