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The Comic Art of Martin Rejtman, or Love in the Time of Late Capitalism

The New Argentine Cinema that flourished in the 1990s, and whose transformational effects still resonate today, found its first true expression in the films of Martin Rejtman (b. 1961). A graduate of New York University’s influential film program, Rejtman anticipated the wave of film school-trained directors who would play such an important role in the reinvention of Argentine cinema. With his first feature, Rapado, Rejtman made an assertive break from the political orientation shaping much of Argentine cinema in the wake of the nation’s long, dark years of dictatorship. An assuredly meticulous, offbeat comedy about apathetic, drifting youth, Rapado pointed towards a deliberately minor cinema more engaged with the paradoxes of Argentina’s neoliberal present than the tangled legacies of its past. The popular and critical success of his subsequent films – the droll and wonderfully deadpan comedies Silvia Prieto and The Magic Gloves – cemented his reputation as the preeminent artist of the nuevo cine argentina with their wry and affectionately subtle satires of not quite young and not quite professional urbanites.

Rejtman is the only contemporary Argentine director to maintain a parallel career as a writer, with several celebrated collections of short stories to his name. Animated by a rich dialogue between literary and cinematic form, the epigrammatic logic and crystalline prose refined by Rejtman’s stories inspire and, in turn, are inspired by the elegant restraint of his films. An important touchstone for Rejtman is classical Hollywood cinema, and especially the screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s for which Rejtman has professed a great love and admiration. Indeed, like the screwball comedy, Rejtman’s cinema defines a delightfully unstable world governed entirely by its own internal logic in which the seemingly inconsequential is treated with the utmost seriousness and non-sequiturs unfold profound truths – in which identities and everyday objects circulate dizzily, gathering unexpected meaning and value along the way. Gentle yet astute satires of love in the age of the free market, Silvia Prieto and The Magic Gloves are each masterpieces of the miniature that reveal a philosophical adroitness and sophistication extremely rare in film comedy today. Most recently Rejtman has successfully turned to nonfiction with two entrancing documentaries, Copacabana and Entertainment for Actors that – until now – remain regretfully unseen in the United States.

The Harvard Film Archive is proud to welcome Martin Rejtman for the first US retrospective of his films.

Current and upcoming film series

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