Are you one of those people who watches two TV programs at once or spend your time watching YouTube while watching VoD movies? Argentina’s Mariano Pensotti has just the kind of theater you’ll enjoy, “Cineastas” at the REDCAT. This 105-minute exploration of film and filmmakers ends this weekend and is well-worth the journey downtown. Although if you’re hoping for the merest whisper of Argentine tango, you’ll be disappointed.
If you like to focus on one story, one main plot or if you’re clourophobic, you might want to give this gently humorous look a filmmaking a pass.
Using a two-tiered set (by Mariana Tirantte), Pensotti reveals the struggles and thoughts of four different filmmakers in Buenos Aires, ranging from the successful director with a tragic secret, the angry minimum-wage workers looking for revenge, an artistic experimental documentarian and a woman being overwhelmed by attention.
Although the play is in Argentine Spanish, English subtitles are projected on to the cross-section of the floor that divides the two level sets. The five-person ensemble cast take turns being narrator and moving in and out of the four stories.
The actions are explained in a manner that reminds me of the telanovelas that have made it to American television: “Ugly Betty” and “Jane the Virgin”. Even the central tragedy has a twist of humor in it.
The commercially successful Gabriel (Javier Lorenzo) is happily married with a young daughter. His latest project is a comedy starring a famous Mexican actor. Diagnoses with terminal cancer, Gabriel begins to change the plot of the movie in hopes of leaving a lasting testimony for his daughter, but this worries the Hollywood producers, particularly when Gabriel begins filming studies of his possessions. Yet the movie produces a side effect, perhaps lining up the person who will take his role as father and husband.
Mariela (Vanesa Maja) makes experimental documentaries and is obsessed with discovering and embracing her Russian ancestry. Her current project is a documentary on Communist musicals with segments played out with campy low-production precision.
Lucas (Marcelo Subiotto) is a coulrophobic’s nightmare, caught in the nightmare existence of working as a McDonald’s. Angry at the dreariness of his work, he works on a vindictive film about a man dresses up as Ronald McDonald, but changes his mind briefly when he finds opportunity served up.
Nadia (Juliana Muras) is a beginning director who had a highly successful first feature and now falters with a studio assigned story about a father and son reunion.
There are specific things we learn about the city of Buenos Aires. Recoleta substitutes for Paris. Avenida Santa Fe can be New York. And yet the universal is that art reflects the artist.
The lighting (by Alejandro le Roux) and the smooth transitions help delineate the four separate stories as well as the stories on film and yet they still might become muddled with time and the right amount of sleep deprivation.
Without notes, I’m left with the vague impression of people working out their problems, their worries and their concerns through the medium of movies, living different and separate lives in this world and in their imaginations. They seek some sort of stability and permanence in a world that is temporal. Cineasta can mean a director or producer or someone who works in the film industry. It can also refer to someone who loves films.
‘Cineastas’ ends its run on Saturday at REDCAT, 631 W. 2nd St., L.A. at 8:30 p.m. $20-$30. (213) 237-2800, http://www.redcat.org