One of the more singular filmmakers working in South America’s southern cone, Gonzalo Castro explores worlds both terpsichorean and erotic with stirring results in “Dioramas.” A kind of quintessential art movie in which aesthetics and body movement are the heart and soul, the film documents, in alternating sequences, a distaff dance company workshop, and two of its members’ intimacies at home. Crossover appeal should span a range of fests, from international to gay/lesbian, dance-themed to Latin American, signaling worldwide travels.
As choreographer Mariano Pattin assembles his company in his studio to begin workshopping a new piece with stretching and breathing, he urges his dancers to begin visualizing their next movement before they do it. The process is intrinsically one of discovery — Pattin repeatedly employs the term “research” — and the excitement of watching “Dioramas” is becoming cognizant of how Castro’s fluid, dexterous handheld HD camera becomes one with the troupe, essentially discovering the company’s discoveries.
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A filmmaker consistently capable of surprises, as demonstrated in 2010’s “Winter House,” Castro unexpectedly switches from the dance studio to an apartment where two of the dancers (Marcela Castaneda, Eugenia Frattini) share a space and considerable affection. Just as each roughly 15-minute dance sequence builds in intensity and physicality, Castaneda and Frattini’s scenes, which are of similar duration, grow increasingly sexual, until the pic emerges as two coiled triptychs that express the emotional and visual possibilities of bodies in spaces.
Exerting total control over his material, and handling every key filmmaking task himself, Castro nevertheless allows his subjects seemingly limitless freedom to do what they want, and responds accordingly. This applies as much to members of Pattin’s company intertwining into a massive group pretzel or exploring complicated movements on an upright bar as it does to the women trying on dresses or making passionate love. In every instance, lensing is assured and steady, with natural light the norm.