The Stolen Man

The spirit of early Jacques Rivette and Eric Rohmer hangs over the curiously weightless "The Stolen Man," a youthful tale of love and literature in which, to pic's detriment, the literature prevails. Though intermittently charming and evocative, wannabe hip item lacks the spontaneity of the French New Wave movies on which it's so obviously modeled, so its gently spoken, bookish protags never quite ignite sympathy.

With:
With: Maria Villar, Romina Paula, Julia Martinez Rubio, Francisco Garcia Faure, Daniel Gilman Calderon.

The spirit of early Jacques Rivette and Eric Rohmer hangs over the curiously weightless “The Stolen Man,” a youthful tale of love and literature in which, to pic’s detriment, the literature prevails. Though intermittently charming and evocative, wannabe hip item lacks the spontaneity of the French New Wave movies on which it’s so obviously modeled, so its gently spoken, bookish protags never quite ignite sympathy. But there’s enough craft and intelligence here to indicate that first-time helmer Matias Pineiro will blossom when he can unshackle himself from his influences.

Artifacts have been stolen from a Buenos Aires museum, and it quickly becomes clear the thief is Mercedes (Maria Villar). She sells them to antique shops and replaces them with objects stolen from a music museum where her actor b.f., Leandro (Daniel Gilman Calderon), works.

Mercedes’ friend, Leticia (Romina Paula), is engaged to Andres (Francisco Garcia Faure). But one day, Mercedes sees Andres in a park with Clara (Julia Martinez Rubio) and follows them. Rest of pic plays variations on these themes.

Film is heavy with references to works by 19th-century Argentine writer Domingo F. Sarmiento, right down to plot details. Titles of the pic’s many brief chapters are taken from Sarmiento, and the characters, who spend much time holding books, pepper their conversations with quotes (sometimes lengthy) from the writer. This is rarefied art-student fare, its big ideas about civilization and history posing an obstacle to the drama.

Perfs are fine, especially from the trio of women, with the busy, energetic Villar pretty much omnipresent. But the absence of any narrative tension gives thesps too little to work with, and whatever internal strife the characters may be feeling remains locked away behind their cool, literary exteriors.

Crisp black-and-white lensing by Fernando Lockett amounts to an intellectual homage to some of the less well-known locations of Buenos Aires, with its little museums and parks. Editing is sometimes quirky, and progression often too snail-paced for too little dramatic reward.

The Stolen Man

Argentina

Production: A Pampero Cine, Universidad del Cine production. (International sales: Pampero, Buenos Aires.) Produced by Pablo Chernov. Directed, written by Matias Pineiro.

Crew: Camera (B&W), Fernando Lockett; editor, Alejo Moguillansky; art director, Marina Califano; sound (Dolby), Hernan Hevia, Daniela Ale. Reviewed at Buenos Aires Film Festival (national competition), April 7, 2007. Running time: 90 MIN.

With: With: Maria Villar, Romina Paula, Julia Martinez Rubio, Francisco Garcia Faure, Daniel Gilman Calderon.

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