There’s a lot that one could accomplish in 83 minutes. Reasonably one might finish a third of a season of Dan and Eugene Levy’s delightfully acerbic series Schitt’s Creek. One might also find that time fitting to have the oil in their vehicle changed...twice. And if one were really ambitious one might find it possible to solve the issue of international political discord with just enough time remaining to grab a quick triple-tall, no-foam, non-fat latte. What one won’t achieve in 83 minutes is cobbling together a cohesive synopsis of Martín Blousson and Macarena García Lenzi’s Rock, Paper, Scissors (Piedra, Papel, y Tijera) which recently premiered at the Brooklyn Horror Film Fest…
…Maria Jose (Valeria Giorcelli) and Jesus (Pablo Sigal) are strange siblings living in an equally strange house in the wake of their father’s death. The two pass their time on the couch watching The Wizard of Oz on what seems to be a perpetual loop and making their own direct-to-video adaptation of the aforementioned film using a camcorder and taupe pumps colored red with a sharpie. Phones and doorbells ring nearly unanswered until a breaking point is reached and the siblings decide who shall entertain their newest caller by playing a game of rock, paper, scissors. In this way we are introduced to the third sibling, Magdalena (Agustina Cerviño) who arrives from Spain to help settle her late father’s affairs and claim her portion of the inheritance.
Magdalena plays as the straight man of the trio, though ultimately she offers little to convince us that she’s any less maladjusted than her not-quite-all-there siblings. After making it clear that she intends to sell the house with the help of a real estate lawyer, Magdalena suffers a fall that renders her wheelchair-bound. Her paranoia as to how accidental the fall was sets the stage for blossoming paranoia and it’s at this point that motivation, narrative, and coherence shit the bed. Magdalena floats in and out of consciousness as quickly as her siblings seem to undergo changes in persona, oscillating between nurturing and neglectful, manic and menacing. On several occasions we’re given a sense of history, a glimpse of lingering familial ties but nothing much, nothing to really sink our teeth into and certainly nothing compelling enough to justify the disjointedly escalating theatre of bizarre that the trio stage in the claustrophobic home.
If Flowers in the Attic serves as a garnish for the proceedings then Stephen King’s Misery is the meat of the dish with Magdalena a stand-in for the bed-ridden Paul Sheldon. Blousson and Lenzi even employ a gruesome third act nod to King’s landmark of torturous captivity. It’s never clear who our Annie Wilkes is though and both Maria Jose and Jesus slide in, and just as quickly, out of the role creating a tedious, forced disorientation. I couldn’t help but feel that Rock, Paper, Scissors never earns its crazy, it lazily rolls it out, buffet style. The type of buffet where everything sort of looks like what its supposed to but never quite lives up to the real thing. The desserts always serving as the biggest betrayal, I mean what even is that log roll cake thing?
The Wizard of Oz is used as a heavy-handed thematic element the purpose of which I’ve still yet to determine. Its persistence in the film must have purpose right? But what is it? What is the parallel? What are the small invisible threads between the narrative, the themes, the characters? Concepts are begun and left unfinished like so many jigsaw puzzles at a nursing home. It’s an in-theater Q&A with the directors I’d kill to be present for.
It would be easy for some to say that elements of the story were lost in the translation from Spanish to English, but I’m a firm believer in that old idea that your film should translate without needing to know the language or without having any spoken dialogue at all. And possessing an intermediate understanding of Spanish and having seen countless Spanish-language films transcend time and space, not to mention language, it isn’t a valid excuse for Rock, Paper, Scissor. It’s a film that exists somewhere over the rainbow, and frankly it’s better left there. Perhaps it warrants a second look, but I think most of us could think of a better way to spend 83 minutes. How’s that oil gauge lookin’?
By Paul Bauer