Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Viola (December 13th and 15th at the Cleveland Museum of Art Morley Lecture Hall)

[VIOLA screens Friday December 13th at 7:45 pm and Sunday December 15th at 2:45 pm at the Cleveland Museum of Art Morley Lecture Hall.]

Review by Charles Cassady, Jr.

Recently Bob Ignizio, founder of the Cleveland Movie Blog, and myself nearly came to violent blows over who would write the review of the latest Alain Resnais feature YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHING YET, in which a bunch of illustrious French thespians, playing themselves, watch a filmed play in which they've all previously played, and the narrative becomes their alternate version(s) of the play-within-the-play.

Mr. Ignizio got to do that one, but threw me the Argentinian film VIOLA instead. It's mildly similar, being about actors in a play who can't help but take the play home, where they play out the play, incorporating it into the play-by-play of their everyday lives. Players and their plays. Know what? I'm reminded why I got sick of plays.

VIOLA is a 2012 picture of unusually brief length and a casual plotline that reminds me of those "Dogme95" digital-video movies that were all the rage a dozen years or so, except this one seems to have used a tripod and professional lighting. The title character is a mousy girl who works with her boyfriend in a lucrative internet-piracy-on-demand business called Metropolis; he downloads movies and music, while she delivers to customers. By chance, Viola's routine puts her into the company of an all-female acting troupe, whose current project is an amalgam of seven different Shakespeare plays. To stay in practice, the girls typically throw Shakespeare lines (all from Twelfth Night, I gather) at each other in their private lives.

The actresses all have a "The Rules" type approach to life, apparently Shakespeare-inspired, that their boyfriends have to be crazy/smitten 4,000 per cent with them all the time, 24/7. Except when they shouldn't be. Or something. Any wonder why there are so many divorces and wrecked relationships among egomaniac showbiz creatures? I'm reading that Russian author-playwright Anton Chekhov could be incredibly compassionate about humanity, but treated the women in his life (maybe except for his sister) most wretchedly. Well, perhaps the bitches were all like this.

In any case, the thespiennes are charmed that Viola has a name right out of Twelfth Night, and they strive to recruit her. Or at least advise Viola to try and shake things up in her complacent home life with the boyfriend. Sure enough (SPOILER ALERT WOULD GO HERE, IF ANYTHING HAPPENED THAT WAS THE LEAST BIT INTERESTING ENOUGH TO DESERVE A SPOILER ALERT), at the abrupt ending, Viola is a vocalist in what may be the world's worst band. That's about it.

I am given to understand VIOLA is actually something of a bookend with a short-feature - also by filmmaker Manuel Peirros - entitled ROSALIND, that also riffs on Shakespeare. And that in real life Peirros concocted a stage piece just like the one in VIOLA. Nice to see young people so enamored of the Immortal Bard. But is it possible that ROSALIND and VIOLA, the movies, are supposed to be shown back-to-back, to make any sort of sense? Or (dare we say) be entertaining?

If so, Cleveland is the last to find out, as usual. As the stub that it is, the thing feels like a whole third act is missing. And Acts I and II weren't much anyway. Guess you've got to really love Shakespeare, especially in the original Klingon - I mean Spanish. (1 3/4 out of 4 stars)

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