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‘My Masterpiece’ Director Gastón Duprat On Comedy, Fine Art and Balancing Tone

The Argentinian director explains why he didn't sweat his solo-directorial debut, why he rehearsed his actors for three months and why Venice is his ideal festival.

My Masterpiece
Venice Film Festival

While “My Masterpiece” zigzags from buddy comedy to biting satire to sober reflection on age and illness – and does so in an order one wouldn’t quite expect – the film always remains buoyed by director Gastón Duprat’s appealingly light approach.

That same light touch enlivened the Argentinian filmmaker’s previous effort, 2016’s “The Distinguished Citizen”, which took home the Volpi Cup at Venice that year and would become Argentina’s foreign language Oscar submission and a modest box office hit.

Premiering Aug. 30 out of competition, this art-world satire hopes to launch with similar aplomb. Produced by Televisión Abierta, Aleph Media, and Mediapro, and sold by Latido Films, “My Masterpiece” focuses on the relationship between jaded Buenos Aires gallerist Arturo (Guillermo Francella) and irascible painter Renzo (Luis Brandoni), a nightmare of a client and Arturo’s oldest, dearest friend.

Whereas up to this point you’ve worked closely with collaborator Mariano Cohn, “My Masterpiece” marks your solo-directorial debut. Did that change much about your process? How was this shoot different from previous efforts?

The shoot wasn’t that different. Though this time round I directed and Mariano [Cohn] produced, it was a real group effort, which also took in our screenwriter Andrés Duplat. On our next film, “4×4” now in post-production, we’ve flipped: Mariano directs, I produce. It’s one way of covering more roles and making a project more solid. But I’m sure Mariano and I will co-direct a film again in the future.

The film navigates several thematic shifts and narrative sleights of hand, all while maintaining a light and breezy air. Was it difficult it to maintain a steady tone throughout?

The tone was certainly a premise, something we sought to capture in three months of extensive rehearsals with Guillermo Francella and Luis Brandoni, where we worked on the actors’ correct tone for a comedic drama which can go from humor to emotion in an instant, without, we hope, any slackening nor loss of plausibility.

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MARIO CHIERICO

While the film is unafraid to paint its two leads in broad, buffoonish strokes, it never calls into question Renzo’s talent as an artist. Was that an important creative mandate? Who did you get to create his art?

It’s the work of a distinguished Argentine expressionist painter, Carlos Gorriarena, who died in 2007. We chose it because of its power of expression, color, and mordant social criticism – perfectly in line with our fictional painter, Renzo Nervi.

Among its many targets, the film plays up a kind of Old World vs. New World dynamic, gently poking fun at the various Europeans who look to Argentina for a new lease on life. Why did you want to play with those themes?

Raúl Arévalo plays Alex, a typical bien-pensant European tourist who feels a sense of solidarity, and is dedicated to noble causes. In reality, he’s pretty much an ingénue. That stands, of course, in large contrast to the gallery owner and the painter, who are far more ambivalent and complex characters — pretty cynical, though their friendship is an ennobling feature.

Both your previous film, “The Distinguished Citizen,” and now “My Masterpiece” have played in Venice as unashamed crowd-pleasers. How important is it to find these kinds of warm-hearted counter-programming in the usually more austere confines of European festival fare? 

I’m no film festival analyst. I can only say that both films, “The Distinguished Citizen” and “My Masterpiece,” have been invited to many topnotch festivals. However, Venice is ideal for our films: Many people say they have quite a large Italian influence, which for me is high praise indeed.

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ALEJANDRA LOPEZ