Sunday, October 24, 2010

LFF 2010: What I Love the Most

Craig reporting from the London Film Festival.

Argentinian film editor Delfina Castagnino makes her directorial feature debut with What I Love the Most / Lo que más quiero, a slight but thoughtfully quiet film full of long takes and extended pauses. The slim plot follows Pilar, who has recently lost her father, visiting her friend Maria, who is absconding from her boyfriend. The two spend their days by nearby lakes, at gigs or on the beach, idling away the time. Pilar ties up her father’s business loose ends and Maria meets a local guy (Esteban Lamothe) who takes her mind off her relationship and the friends begin to drift apart.   

What I Love is a cleanly directed, well-composed film. Each scene is clinically precise in its framing, though often deliberately askew – actors awkwardly shot from just below waist-height, tree-lined landscapes partially obscure parts of the film frame. Most shots outlast their naturally assumed endpoints to further mine seemingly pointless instances of idle banter or connection between leads Maria Villar and Pilar Gamboa.

It feels very much like a hazy-lazy variant of the recent-ish Slow Cinema trend – familiar from Castagnino’s sometime collaborator Lisandro Alonso, and Carlos Reygadas, Antonio Campas etc – but with a foregrounded central female friendship (Celine and Julie Go Floating, perhaps?) Or maybe it’s a film after Eric Rohmer’s heart? But imagine, if you will, Sofia Coppola on holiday and on tranquilisers while remaking Vera Chytilová's Daisies to come close to what Castagnino achieves here. She does draw a pair of natural, unaffected performances from the two leads, but at times the film bordered on the exceedingly wispy, as if all that extended emptiness might just blow away on a vapid, late summer wind. Castagnino’s previous employ seems to have been largely neglected for her debut – once she regains her editor’s touch, and finds a way to better substantiate her themes, a second feature might just be a minor gem. D+

 What I Love the Most is showing at the LFF on Sunday 24th and Wednesday 27th October

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