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At the Locarno Festival, “Piaffe”, by Ann Oren, succeeds in galloping in competition

From the identification of man to animal: on this theme, powerfully dug in the history of cinema – to cite only one film, Random balthazar (1968) by Robert Bresson –, the 75e edition of the International Festival of Locarno, in Switzerland, which ends on August 13, will have provided some fine specimens. paw, by Ann Oren, one of the seventeen feature films competing for the Golden Leopard, will have lit up the last days of the competition, deploying its surreal material from a cinema profession: sound effects. Huge and patient work behind the scenes again at the center of a screenplay, after the theatrical release, on August 3, in France, of the Spanish film Offset, by Juanjo Gimenez Pena.

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paw tells the story of a young sound designer, Eva (Simone Bucio), responsible for producing the sound for an advertisement for a mood-stabilizing drug, Equili, using the image of a rider on her horse – moment of scathing humor on the promises of merchants. Step suspended from the animal, trot on the spot, movement is minimal and requires incredible dexterity. Eva has to replace her brother at short notice, also a noisemaker, suffering from a sudden fever… She plunges headlong into the task, testing different sounds, banging her coconuts on the floor of her apartment, visiting a stable… So much so that one day, when she jumped out of bed, the delicate-skinned brunette discovered the tip of her tail at the bottom of her back, then soon a mane, which she elegantly tucked under her trench coat. As if it were natural.

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From now on, the young woman trots to her appointments in a delicately burlesque game, catching the eye of a botanist, specialist in the reproduction of ferns. The morning glory has guts, and horsehair. Neo-Bunuelian, this erotic and sexual “pas de deux” feeds on more contemporary influences: the taste for the bizarre by the Portuguese João Pedro Rodrigues, or the Frenchwoman Lucile Hadzihalilovic, the sensory performances of Christian Rizzo, Gisèle Vienne, etc. . We cling to the steps of the actress, to her breath, to her silent acting, we follow her to understand how far her character wants to go. Breathtaking, Bucio makes credible this metamorphosis which is also a labor. Blending into the work, here as a noisemaker, to the point of changing skin, or stepping aside, is not one of the film’s least questions.

Switching from the real to the marvelous

The director, born in Tel-Aviv in 1979, is part of this generation of artists eager to renew stories, working on the porosity between species, the shift from reality to wonder. Before pawAnn Oren had made a trial run, so to speak, the short film Passage (2020), a similar story embodied by Simon(e) Jaikiriuma Paetau, a performer working on gender fluidity – who here magnificently embodies Eva’s sick brother.

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