30 April 2008 | Chris Knipp
Much ado about being dumped
Shown at Cannes last May, this film by the prolific thirty-something Argentine filmmaker stars herself in a semi-autobiographical film journal of the several days after Inez (Katz) is abruptly dumped by her boyfriend when embarking on a vacation in the woods. As her name suggests, the experience may be closer to that of screenplay co-author Ines Bortagaray. Katz does a very convincing acting job under the relentless scrutiny of a sometimes overly jiggly (and overly-close) hand-held camera that is on her and even in her face most of the time. The co-writer, director, and star bravely uses her own physicality in depicting the abandoned woman.
The narrative, and the camera, follow Inez' initial self-deception, tears and uncertainty, and gradual resignation to a situation over which she has no control. Absurdly, Inez gets off a bus where she has been constantly squabbling with her boyfriend Miguel (Daniel Hendler), and is puzzled when the bus pulls away with Miguel still on it. Inez finds she may have gotten off the bus a bit early since she has to walk some distance to get to the resort where they booked a room, so at first she figures that's why Miguel didn't step down. But Miguel was obviously fed up with Inez' neurotic neediness and no longer willing to talk. Miguel comes across as an inarticulate, cowardly creep; on the other hand, Inez is both self-absorbed and self-deluded. Inez goes ahead and checks into their double room at the inn and leaves messages for Miguel wondering what's happened. It takes her many hours to accept that Miguel is completely fed up with her--something evident to us in the first five minutes of the film.
Though this material, with its ridiculously unperceptive protagonist, could lend itself to the work of a female Woody Allen, Katz bypasses comedy in favor of a more naturalistic, almost real-time approach that at times strains the patience, though it does achieve a certain level of slice-of-lice conviction. Perhaps the best accomplishment of the film is its evocation of the agonizing boredom of being in the wrong place at the wrong time--away from familiar surroundings, trying helplessly to "have fun"--when going through emotional pain. Unfortunately it's not entirely clear why exactly the audience needs to sit through all the hour-by-hour details of Inez' slow double-take, which aren't particularly memorable. Katz would have done well to muster a little more imagination in finding details. Her film shows the limits of an unmitigated diaristic approach. Just as Truman Capote said of Jack Kerouac's 'On the Road' that it wasn't writing but typing, one might say of 'Una Novia Errante' that it's not film-making but filming.
The one character who engages interest and momentarily keeps Inez busy is Germán (Carlos Portaluppi), a large, very chubby fellow who seems to live nearby. He too is the victim of a breakup--of his marriage, with kids--and appears adrift. He spends most of his time with other locals including a somewhat worse-for-wear looking woman who may cohabit with him in his disheveled abode, and he's a regular denizen of the resort's archery facilities and enjoys the occasional horse ride and dip in the ocean. Inez evidently feels he's getting too friendly, since when he's taking a swim, she hastily bolts. Later he attempts to steal a few kisses, but she'll have none of it. Meanwhile Miguel has answered his phone a couple of times. He's forced to talk back because Inez has been leaving endless messages and then begun deleting his emails. Once Inez' father (Arturo Goetz) and some others arrive unannounced, Inez seems to be getting back to normal, but there's not much sense of an ending.
Seen at the San Francisco International Film Festival 2008.