Film Review: ‘The Princess of France’

Matias Pineiro's latest airy riff on Shakespearean romances will please his admirers while leaving others unmoved.

The Princess of France Toronto Film

Continuing his series of modern romantic roundelays riffing on Shakespearean ones, Matias Pineiro’s “The Princess of France” will no doubt delight fans of his 2011 featurette “Rosalinda” and the next year’s barely-feature-length “Viola,” while again drawing a blank from those who find these self-conscious exercises perilously light on substance and charm. Having already skedded a prime festival tour, with Cinema Guild on board as a U.S. theatrical distributor and the writer-helmer’s New York-set next entry (“Hermia & Helena”) already in the works, “Princess” should further his profile with international audiences. But it will also underline his work’s divisive status as a matter of taste among viewers equally likely to judge it enchanting or pointless.

A year after directing a troupe of young actors in “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” Victor (Julian Larquier Tallarini) returns from Mexico to Buenos Aires, where he informs his former players that he’s gotten some funding to record a radio play of their production. This reignites a lot of dormant emotions; though there’s nothing very prepossessing about Victor, all the actresses seem to have designs on him. That includes a current official girlfriend, a lover pregnant by someone else, a platonic friend with other ideas, and a problematic ex who’s been axed from the revived “Labour” but will use any means to get back in. Their prey is bounced around by these machinations about as passively as a leaf in an updraft.

While mounted with stylish assurance, “Princess” feels even thinner than the modest sleeper breakout “Viola,” which benefited from more generous swaths of Shakespearean passages. Here, the play excerpts are mostly limited to a climactic recording session where the performers rattle through passages with little feeling or emphasis. Elsewhere, the Bard’s text finds little reflection in the underdeveloped latter-day characters and relationships, played with competence but little magnetism by the helmer’s customary group of thesps.

Popular on Variety

There’s little indication he thinks it matters whether we can easily tell them apart, or learn enough about their interpersonal dynamics to care — it’s all just a sophisticated divertissement, anyway. But even the most deliberately airy amusement can use more ingenious structuring and assertive personality than Pineiro is inclined to provide at this (still early) stage in his career.

Film Review: ‘The Princess of France’

Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Wavelengths), Sept. 13, 2014. (Also in Locarno, Rio, Vancouver, New York, London, Chicago festivals.) Running time: <strong>67 MIN.</strong> (Original title: “La princesa de Francia”)

  • Production: (Argentina) A Cinema Guild (in U.S.) release of a Trapecio Cine production in association with Portable Films, Universidad del Cine, Alta Definicion Argentina and I-SAT. (International sales: Trapecio Cine, Buenos Aires.) Produced by Melanie Schapiro.
  • Crew: Directed, written by Matias Pineiro. Camera (color, HD), Fernando Lockett; editor, Sebastian Schjaer; music, Julian Larquier Tallarini, Julian Tello, Juan Chacon; production designer, Ana Cambre; sound, Mercedes Tennina, Daniela Ale, Emilio Iglesias; assistant director, Lionel Braverman.
  • With: Julian Larquier Tallarini, Agustina Munoz, Maria Villar, Romina Paula, Laura Paredes, Elisa Carricajo, Pablo Sigal, Gabriela Saidon, Julian Tello, Juan Chacon.
  • Music By: