Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This month: The A.V. Club atones for its sins of omission, recommending the best movies of the year that we didn’t review.
Some directors can be labeled difficult for obvious reasons: extreme narrative fracturing (Hou Hsiao-Hsien), unusually long shots emphasizing visuals over story developments (Béla Tarr), dialogue via gnomic aphorisms (Jean-Luc Godard). In the case of Argentine filmmaker Martín Rejtman, it requires further explanation to conclude why his more superficially conventional films (little seen in the U.S.) sometimes produce maddened shrugs from viewers. His low-key comedies bear a resemblance to the work of Jim Jarmusch and Aki Kaurismäki, filmmakers for whom slow-burn drollery is (or at least once was) a goal worth pursuing in and of itself. But even Jarmusch’s central trio in Stranger Than Paradise tried to go somewhere, while Rejtman’s characters often seem catatonically indifferent to their inconsequentiality.
In synoptic form, Two Shots Fired’s premise seems to indicate a little more drama than usual from Rejtman: One post-club morning, Mariano (Rafael Federman) aims the title shots at himself for no particular reason. (“It was hot.”) For equally inexplicable reasons, the suicide doesn’t take. Mariano’s mom Susana (Susana Pampin) removes all potential implements of harm from the house, then asks him to move out. He crashes with his brother Ezequiel (Benjamin Coelho), who meets a girl at a fast-food restaurant, and the three go to a party together, where they meet some new characters. At a certain point, the film abandons the siblings altogether for a seaside jaunt Susana takes with friends, introducing even more people to alternately follow or veer away from.
In some ways, Two Shots Fired plays like a parody of the “everyone-is-connected” subgenre exemplified by P.T. Anderson’s Magnolia and Robert Altman’s Short Cuts: The intersection of two disparate people never results in anything of consequence. Because ostensible protagonists lack any kind of momentum or trajectory, the film must invent one for itself by moving forward without any particular payoff in mind. It may help to know that Rejtman (also a short story writer) constructs his films by first thinking of particular scenes he’d like to see, then faces the challenge of how to link them all together. A lack of overarching structure is an inherent strand of Two Shots Fired’s DNA.
The film’s comedy, then, comes in two forms: the perverse ingenuity linking one scene to the next, and the specific jokes in each one. Rejtman amuses himself with non sequiturs, deadpan missed connections, and even very basic familiar gags like a group of burly metal men suddenly emerging from a tiny car. He has a firm, convincing sense of every location he shows: Teen apartment parties, dilapidated beach houses and half-empty CD stores build a portrait of where Buenos Aires’ least-motivated kill their days and nights. Rejtman’s sense of humor is one worth acquiring, but even if it remains inaccessible to viewers, his feel for place-based inertia reveals an ambition belied by his films’ modest surfaces.
Availability: Two Shots Fired is coming to home-viewing platforms in 2016.