Hermia & Helena Screen 85 of 24 reviews

Hermia & Helena

2016

Hermia & Helena Poster
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    Sight & Sound: Jordan Cronk
    November 04, 2016 | Toronto | December 2016 Issue (p. 54)

    Fascinated by the beauty of movement and language, Piñeiro applies the theme of translation to the fabric of his narrative, allowing his weightless, intimate style to blossom. A meticulously staged and scripted late-film confrontation between Camila and her estranged father (Dan Sallitt) is an unassumingly moving encounter that portends an exciting new chapter in Piñeiro's career.

  • For all his hemisphere-bounding energy, Piñeiro is also a material miniaturist, looking closely at and placing grand dramatic weight upon small physical objects such as homemade art works and pocket-size paperbacks, postcards, and gloves... Piñeiro’s quiet virtuosity, which binds the movie’s relentless energy to intimate discoveries, is giddily thrilling.

  • Despite the playful, self-aware hubris of Piñeiro’s overall project, tackling not just one of Shakespeare’s comedies but the lot of them, the plays are thoroughly subsumed into the heady thrill of narration that characterizes the director’s work.

  • It's very likely the most nimble film playing at the festival, and to me represents the most exciting thread that current independent arthouse cinema has to offer, films made by those preternaturally aware of their surroundings in both life and art, and in creating works that contribute to both.

  • Meandering as it is, Hermia and Helena has a deliberate pace unusual to Piñeiro, gradually working toward a climactic scene between the protagonist and an enigmatic figure from her past (played by indie filmmaker Dan Sallitt). This is easily Piñeiro’s most somber film to date, and though the broadening of his emotional landscape, as well as the sharpening of his narrative strategy, seems out of character, both represent a major step forward and signify even greater things to come.

  • Given this solidifying directorial language, however, it's surprising to find that Hermia & Helena's most pointed aesthetic gesture also happens to be the filmmaker's newest. Several instances of ostensibly scene-transitioning dissolves transform furtively into long-held superimpositions, with up to four shots overlaid atop one another for up to a minute at a time.

  • Awash in swooning dissolves and animated text, and featuring a detour into early cinema, it’s easily the director’s most visually extravagant film to date.

  • It may not be news that we inhabit a world of networked cities, where the compression of space and time among those nodal points can be breathtaking, but Piñeiro explores his character’s mental maps with an emotional proximity and psychological epiphany rare in contemporary cinema. Working with many actors from his usual ensemble (Agustina Muñoz, Julián Larquier Tellarini), the performances are always engaging, even entrancing.

  • In subtle ways, the film re-expresses the idea that each social situation demands a certain performance, a readjustment of gesture and speech, which Camila’s role as a translator reiterates. In Piñeiro’s first English-language production, the characters speak a snappy, artificial form of English straight from classical American comedy, again bolstering the notion that, for Piñeiro and Shakespeare both, all this world’s a stage.

  • Set in Buenos Aires and New York, this deconstructed romance explores its knotty crossings of amorous paths with Piñeiro’s characteristic intricacy, elegance and wit. Constantly signaling itself as a filmic construct, sometimes in willfully jarring fashion, Hermia and Helena is a reminder that, as much as any director working today, Pineiro is defined by a peculiar sensibility, rather than necessarily a style.

  • The film marks a distinct departure for the director, not only in its gymnastic sense of geography and temporality, but also in its curious formal details, including lush superimpositions, floating onscreen text, and jaunty Scott Joplin score. Piñeiro’s usual tempo is revised to accommodate the different languages and shifts in setting. The verbal and cinematographic mad dashes of previous films are exchanged for something dizzier and more somber.

  • Camila’s adventures are both amorous and personal, Rohmerian and Rivettean, as she hops between boyfriends and eventually, in a masterfully staged, deeply emotional encounter, meets her absent father (filmmaker Dan Sallitt, a revelation). Always delightful, Hermia & Helena sees Piñeiro making an auteur film that fits into his oeuvre while expanding it in exciting directions—and en route, he makes New York his own.

  • Piñeiro's cinema has traditionally engaged the heart by way of the head, which is why the film's shift from cerebral game-playing into pure, beautifully understated emotion is both unexpected and hugely impressive, the sign of a director realizing, much like his protagonist, that trying to find a new status quo is at some point unavoidable.

  • Duality is implied by the film’s title, as Camila comes to incorporate both the courted Hermia and the anguished Helena, and Piñeiro injects her portrait with a hitherto unfamiliar but deeply affecting note of pathos. Are Piñeiro’s forever young finally growing up?

  • The movie is as clever and erudite as Piñeiro’s previous Shakespeare-inflected comedies—small films with elements of Rohmer, Rivette, and Borges.

  • At first, Piñeiro's latest feels like a dance with more mainstream conventions, but these romantic comedy tropes are consistently subverted through eclectic stylistic visual choices (an X-ray image of swaying trees interrupts a reunion between two lovers), and by the prickly characters themselves, who refuse to settle into any recognizable groove. After all, this is a film of nomads, and their desire to continue moving keeps us on our toes.

  • It's not a perfect film... But with each film Piñeiro is growing more expansive and confident; and especially in the beautifully modulated sequence when Camila visits her absentee dad, the movie attains a richness and maturity that lingers in the mind. A dedication, not to Shakespeare, but to Ozu star Setsuko Hara, comes full circle in the melancholy anti-climax.

  • It's a joy. Part screwball comedy, part NYC loft farce, and to some degree the finest Woody Allen film anyone has made in years, this is a study of connections made and disrupted, long distances (geographical as well as emotional) traversed as abruptly as only cinema can manage—with an edit.

  • Hermia & Helena is in the honorable tradition of movies made by people who love movies to the point of idiocy, but not to the point where they can only make movies about other movies. The references are sneakier: the film’s dedicated to Setsuko Hara, Ozu’s star in Late Spring and Tokyo Story, and the latter’s famous thesis line, “Life is very disappointing, isn’t it?” gets paraphrased in a much lighter-hearted context here.

  • While “Hermia & Helena” avoids going quite as deep down the rabbit hole of its source material as other Piñero films, eventually the filmmaker can’t help himself — and it’s the best instance yet of his ability to quote Shakespeare in a fresh context.

  • Admittedly there's a darker side in the heroine's closed-offness (even her "personal gift" to the school is a photo of someone else's postcards), and the abiding sense that it's impossible to really know anyone, though even that would be stronger if the characters weren't sometimes whimsical and the overall effect quite magpie-ish and insubstantial. Three films in, I'm still not sure where the poseur ends in Pineiro and the personal filmmaker begins.

  • As I've admitted before, Piñeiro is an auteur with whom I have virtually no points of connection—the aspects of human behavior that apparently fascinate him strike me as mundane bordering on actively tedious. Nor have I yet observed him to do anything truly interesting with Shakespeare, whose work he seems to incorporate in every film primarily as a means of creating a unifying "project" with a readymade patina of respectability.

  • Riffing very liberally on “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” this tale of a Buenos Aires theater director finding her feet and potentially losing her heart in New York City lopes along with the same idle, chatty charm as Piñeiro’s hour-long “Viola” and “The Princess of France.” But with its tricksy timeline and waifish subplots, the film feels unduly stretched even to reach its modest length, while our dramaturgy-fixated protagonist is slow to stumble into a compelling arc of her own.

  • It seemed to be a step backwards for Piñeiro; his first “American” film, shot in New York with nods to the classics (Woody Allen) and the moderns (Noah Baumbach, Alex Ross Perry), was more labored and derivative than his usual, as if the change of setting made him want to emulate his heroes rather than do his own thing.

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