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Life goes on after a bizarre shooting event in Martín Rejtman’s absurdist TWO SHOTS FIRED

TWO SHOTS FIRED (DOS DISPAROS) (Martín Rejtman, 2014)
Film Society of Lincoln Center, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
Howard Gilman Theater / Francesca Beale Theater
144 West 65th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam Aves.
May 13-19

Last year, award-winning Argentine writer-director Martín Rejtman returned with his first film in eight years (and only his fourth feature in his nearly thirty-year career), the absurdist black comedy Two Shots Fired. The calmly paced story begins as sixteen-year-old Mariano (Rafael Federman), after a night of dancing, goes about his daily chores, swimming laps in his family’s backyard pool (as the dog runs alongside him) and mowing the lawn. He shows no emotion when he accidentally runs over the mower’s electric cord; instead he simply goes into the house for tools to fix it. There he also finds a box with a gun, so he goes into his room, puts the gun against his head, and pulls the trigger, like it’s a perfectly normal thing to do. He then places the barrel against his stomach and shoots himself a second time. The first shot merely grazes his temple, while the second shot seems to have left a bullet lodged in his body. Mariano evenhandedly claims that he is not depressed and was not trying to kill himself, and his friends and family essentially act as if nothing has happened, going on with their simple, ordinary lives. The only ones who appear to be even the slightest bit concerned are his mother (Susana Pampin), who secretly hides all the scissors and kitchen knives, and the dog, who runs away.

When Mariano attempts to go anywhere with his brother (Benjamín Coelho) that involves passing through a metal detector, the system beeps at him; when his brother tries to explain that it must be because there is a bullet in him, Mariano doesn’t care, opting not to enter, instead waiting outside without complaining, explaining, or making a scene. When he practices with his woodwind quartet, his recorder releases a second note every time he plays, presumably the result of the lodged bullet, but he continues on, like it’s no big deal. And when his cell phone incessantly goes off, he doesn’t get mad or embarrassed; he simply tries to find a place to put it where it won’t disturb him or anyone else. He, and everyone around him, including a potential girlfriend (Manuela Martelli) and his music teacher (Laura Paredes), just keep on keeping on, going about their business, virtually emotionless. They’re not trying to forget what happened; instead, it’s like it is just another part of daily existence in this Buenos Aires suburb. A minimalist, Rejtman first focuses his camera on a place, then doesn’t move it as characters walk in and some kind of “action,” however critical or monotonous, takes place; then the people leave the frame as the camera lingers, like Ozu on Valium. What happens is just as important, or unimportant, as what doesn’t happen. Every scene is treated the same, a meditation on the mundanity of life (with perhaps more than a passing reference to how Argentina has dealt with los desaparecidos and its long-running volatile political climate). And just like life, parts of the film are boring, parts are wildly funny, parts are unpredictable, and parts are, well, just parts of life. A selection of the 52nd New York Film Festival, Two Shots Fired is having its official U.S. theatrical release May 13-19 at Lincoln Center in conjunction with “Sounds Like Music: The Films of Martín Rejtman,” with Rejtman on hand for Q&As following the 6:30 screenings on May 13 and 15. The one-week festival also includes Rejtman’s Elementary Training for Actors, The Magic Gloves, Rapado, and Silvia Prieto.

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