Directed by RAUL PERRONE 63 minutes Argentina
From the opening frame – a stock-still lens capturing two couples in still-life posture of repose rendered in rounded corners – of Hierba, writer/director Raúl Perrone announces rather clearly that the cinematic experience that will subsequently unfold will be an experience unlike others. Utterly foreign in terms of execution, yet vaguely familiar with stylistic choices gleaned from the past, reassembled into an amalgamation of artistic representation incorporating 19th century paintings as backdrops to the silent film unfolding before (and in) their meticulously-positioned brushstrokes like a series of tableaux vivants come to life.
Paintings from the likes of Monet, Manet and Renoir (to name a few) populate the backgrounds of each still frame, each frame signifying one act of the film’s storyline with 18 acts in total. The actors, themselves, exist primarily in the foreground, in time period aligned garments, over-emoting in the vein of silent films, gravitas pinned to the performances by way of over-exaggeration. Their existences will occasionally blend into the paintings, two art forms bleeding into one as the oil-painted veneer of thickets and overgrowth cloud the stances and footfalls of the actors navigating the artificiality of the surrounding terrain.
Through Perrone’s harkening back to the olden ways of artistic expression, a narrative does begin to emerge over the course of the 18 act structure. Marginally formed, relying on the Impressionistic qualities exuding from the painted backdrops, the loosely strung together series of events and emotional states allude to some of the basest elements of man’s endeavors – desire and violence – rifling back through time, digging down to the root. Everything existing in one emulsification of varying eras with actor’s facial expressions caked in the chalky residual dust of perished time like specters occupying and negotiating the frames forever stalking a landscape where all time bleeds into one. All things retracing, even the somber tones of string strokes cycling back in reverse with a drawn-out sharpness.
Perrone’s commitment to his vision is laudable, never straying far from his methods except for when he propels his unification of rendered past artistic techniques into the modern. A sudden injection of modern music – electronic cumbia – thrusts the affair into a brief stint of discordance with the harmony of the bygone practices warped into a more recognizable, modern experimentation. One act consisting solely in a cerulean blue coating with upbeat dance music scoring the playful and stilted dance movements, while another more menacing turn of events is soundtracked by a mixture of dance and British punk music as it devolves into a series of over-layered images of distress and assault.
Despite the fact that not all of these tangents and experimentations work as harmoniously as others, criticism remains a challenging task given the scarcity of Perrone’s techniques and tactics, no such examples of peak refinement and/or configurations exist as a qualifying comparison (if such comparisons exist, I’m ignorant of their presence). Perrone deserves a certain level of praise merely for the fact that he is willing to experiment with various art-forms using an array of techniques to create something different; doing so with skill and an assuredness, as he displays here, should afford him even more.