Currently the subject of a four-film series at the Museum of Fine Arts, the gifted young Argentine writer-director Matías Piñeiro really likes Shakespeare. Piñeiro’s 2010 short, “Rosalinda,” is about a group of actors rehearsing a production of “As You Like It.” In his 2012 not-quite-short, “Viola” (it’s an hour long), a Buenos Aires production of “Twelfth Night” is point of departure for a buoyant examination of love’s labor’s lost offstage.
One reason Piñeiro likes Shakespeare so much may be a mutual love of coincidence. The title character shares a name, of course, with the heroine of Shakespeare’s play. The way Piñeiro connects her with the production in the movie is quite shameless, but his handling of narrative is so assured that it’s only once the lights are about to go up that the shakiness of the conceit reveals itself. By then, the viewer is likely to have been so charmed that the contrivance is easily accepted as a small price to pay to support Piñeiro’s assemblage.
María Villar, as Viola, has a charming inwardness. She pedals around Buenos Aires, delivering the music discs that she and her boyfriend (Esteban Bigliardi) put together for clients. Does their clientele overlap with the audience for that production of “Twelfth Night”? Perhaps more than just the audience overlaps. In any event, Villar’s slightly ungainly reserve contrasts with Agustina Muñoz’s somewhat overripe extroversion as one of the actresses. It’s a contrast that may have further ramifications.
“Viola” owes much of the pleasure it offers to the sorts of things one looks for in any good movie: an attractive cast, attractively photographed in an attractive location, and plotting that manages to feel relaxed without being lazy.
That pleasure further derives from two things unusual in a movie, good or otherwise. One is brevity. At just an hour, “Viola” is the length of a television drama episode. That duration feels just right. More filmmakers should consider trying it. The other is the rare treat of being able to read Shakespeare (in the subtitles) while hearing him, in Spanish translation. The combination is a bit dizzying, in a good way. It’s like being in love that way. The double-barreled Shakespeare is all the more memorable for being repeated, as Muñoz and Elisa Carricajo, playing another actress, go over the same scene multiple times. Rather than being boring, the repetition is like getting seconds — or thirds — on a particularly tasty dish. As someone once said, if music be the food of love, play on.
Piñeiro will be on hand for a discussion following Thursday’s 8 p.m. screening.
Mark Feeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.