Near the middle of Cinestas, Mariano Pensotti's mosaic work about filmmakers working in Buenos Aires, Russian expat Dmitri explains Sergei Eisenstein's theory on editing. The idea is that the Soviet filmmaker would use two distinct images to create the third for his film.
Pensotti takes this idea to heart in this epic work, part of the 2015 Out There festival at the Walker Art Center. The stage is split into two halves. On the bottom, we watch a quartet of filmmakers struggle with creativity, direction, and life in general. On top, scenes from their movies-in-progress are shown.
That gives Pensotti a tremendous amount of material to play with, as eight different stories (more, actually, as one of the films in progress is a documentary about Soviet-era musicals) go up against each other. A quintet of actors play all of this out, taking on multiple roles in both areas, as well as narrating all of these different stories as they occur.
It could be absolutely exhausting and unbearably pretentious, but Pensotti and his hard-working actors weave all of these tales into a living, breathing whole.
It helps that the tone varies from story to story, even with a constant undercurrent of the absurd. One of the struggling filmmakers spends his days employed at McDonald's and works at night on a film centered on a man kidnapped and then forced to dress up as Ronald McDonald and work at the fast-food restaurant.
At the center is a veteran creator who learns that he is terminally ill just as he starts working on a romantic comedy (shades of Neil Gaiman's Signal to Noise, but without an impending apocalypse). He turns the film into a shadow of his own life, even shooting footage of his possessions, that he hopes his young daughter can eventually see and connect with after death.
There are plenty of absent fathers and lost souls. The city also shows up as a character, though mainly through the complex visions of each character. It's a memorable, funny, and even touching work that never forgets the artifice that surrounds the characters.
IF YOU GO:
Cineastas Through Saturday Walker Art Center 1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis $22-$25 For tickets and more information, call 612-375-7600 or visit online.