Visual essay (continued)

The Players vs. Ángeles Caídos

13 a-c. Several examples of the kinds of improvised play and absurdist theater that distinguish The Players from The Hour of the Furnaces, and comprise the scenes leading up to its first “pseudo-advertising spot.” The character on the left writhes for long moments alone on the floor of an empty parlor, talking to himself; the two characters in the middle paint one another’s faces as clowns and engage in nonsensical conversation; on the right, one of the two male characters (Luís) is wholly “invisible” to Leonor, in the foreground.
14 a-f. Slow lateral tracking shots along the cluttered studio floor capture several Players in repose amidst the shadows. These alternate with static, high-angle, extreme long shots from one of the catwalks high above, where a Fallen Angel sketches the set below, together with several swift zooms into his drawings, which depict the mise-en-scène of the tracking shots. Despite appearances, however, this is not an instance of parallel montage, as evidenced by the film set visible from the galleries: though a dolly rigging supports a camera crew tracking back and forth, the scene they film is unlike that of the actual tracking shots we watch.

15. As the “advertising sequence” proper of The Players commences, the director can be heard barking commands to the crew: “Camera, Parodi!” “Open the doors!” “Action!”. Two figures can be seen in the extreme background opening an imposing set of pocket doors.

16 a-b. A cut in to a slightly tighter high-angle shot of the film crew coincides with a call of “Take Two!” A slow tilt up ensues to reveal Luís, in striped pajamas, holding a cup of coffee and preparing to begin the musical number that will ultimately comprise the scene’s “advertising jingle.” A couple of Players stand behind Luis, just beyond the pocket doors seen earlier, which now open fully to reveal yet another film set in the background.
17 a-b. Now the “spot” begins in earnest: our view is that of the camera crew seen in the immediately preceding shot, with a dolly in on Luís as he sings of waking up to the world he’d left behind the night before. As for the set beyond the pocket doors, it now reveals itself as the façade of a residential home (in fact, it is but another sound stage within the larger set of Lumiton Studios).
18. The music shifts in tempo as we cut to Cristina in close up, counting beats and preparing to take over the song where Luís left off. She appears to occupy an interior space (note the venetian blinds), though a relation is at no point established to either the set where Luís had been standing or to the façades of the buildings behind him.
19 a-b. Cristina, who begins the song off-key, falters; the music trails off as she signals off screen for a second take. Her eye-line, however, is matched not by a shot of the crew, but rather by a low-angle long shot of a pair of Fallen Angels haunting the fly floor. Again, no indication is given that the two spaces are in fact contiguous.
20 a-f. As Cristina at last launches into her (mostly nonsensical) jingle about the joys of bedtime en couple and the banalities of postcoital mornings, the film slips fully into its simulated advertising mode of cinematic form: fifteen consecutive hand-held shots sweep in vivacious arcs about the kitchen and among the Players as they prepare a “family breakfast.” Directional movements within the frame alternate in rhythmic counterpoint from one shot to the next. On practically every formal level, in fact, the sequence is identical to the Jockey commercial discussed above.
21 a-c. If the “commercial” appears to end with the conclusion of Cristina’s ditty and the stilling of the mobile camera, the film set of the pseudo-spot in The Players remains, as do the advertising actors, who now linger in the kitchen making unscripted small-talk around the breakfast table. Continuing in this manner for an additional five minutes, the scene depicts a group of men and women who are, at once, the former stars of a filmed commercial-devoid-of-product; actors playing a Shakespearean troupe called “The Players”; and actor-friends (of Alberto Fischerman) sharing an unremarkable, quotidian experience on what happens to be the set of a venerable Buenos Aires film studio, though it is also the setting for The Players vs. Fallen Angels.

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