Cleverness of pic's conception will appeal to those who know the reference points.
An elaborate game involving literature, a book draft, paintings and a family tree conceals a metaphorical fable on Argentina’s history of dictatorship and progressivism in Matias Pineiro’s “They All Lie.” A circle of young people fall into a situation that starts with an innocent enough bonfire and ends with a whole house being torched, as personal peeves take on greater gravity. The full cleverness of the pic’s conception will appeal most to those who know the reference points, though lovers of classic European art cinema could prove an audience at select fests, if not beyond.
Following up on his stylish and sharp debut, “The Stolen Man,” 26-year-old Pineiro has emerged not only as one of his country’s most interesting younger filmmakers, but also as an artist obsessed with Argentina’s key 19th-century political enemies: populist strongman dictator Juan Martin de Rosas and progressive pol and literary leader Domingo Sarmiento. In “They All Lie,” Sarmiento’s great-great-granddaughter, Helena (Romina Paula, “Stolen”) is on a mission to destroy de Rosas’ lineage, repped here by arrogantly successful painter Joaquin Martin de Rosas (Esteban Lamothe).
But Helena’s deeper intentions remain concealed, as the film devotes much of its time to the rapid, fierce verbal interactions of her friends, who are congregated at her family house outside Buenos Aires. The mood is tinged with post-graduate goofing off, sexual warfare and baroque, Jacques Rivette-style game-playing.
Take Monica (Maria Villar, also from “Stolen”), who seems to do little at first but play guitar and sing, but who later plays possum to spy on Helena, whom she learns is planning to leave everyone behind at the house. Or, take Isabel (busy thesp Julia Martinez Rubio), a painter who claims she’s responsible for the work Joaquin maintains is his own.
In a brilliantly staged sequence, with Pineiro’s roving camera acting as guide and observer, the friends discuss what sounds like a completely fictitious (though possibly true) account of how a Sarmiento family woman is born every eight years, and how de Rosas males are prone to keeling over after a child is born. While the extended scene seems at first to go on too long, it actually sets up the film’s unexpected finale.
“They All Lie” thus weaves together a fluid, often fun, sometimes deliberately confusing game on one hand, and a fable of the history of Argentine political power on the other. The pic could even be read as a commentary on the current regime, with highly controversial President Cristina Kirchner repping de Rosas, and her opposition standing in for Sarmiento. While this element will carry considerable impact for Argentine viewers, the subtleties will be lost on others.Typical of the films produced by indie outfit El Pampero Cine, the acting is charged by a whip-smart, deadpan approach, overflowing with talk that seems to be delivered at the speed of sound, if not light. Paula, Villar and Rubio dominate the games from start to finish, with Lamothe making an impact near the very end.
Pineiro likes to refer to himself, in the French sense, as an “amateur,” but the vid lensing, editing and overall production sense are undoubtedly pro, and the film has an overall texture that feels closest to indie French and German filmmaking. Plentiful chapter title cards become too cute by half.