"A Stray Girlfriend": End of a Relationship By Martín Pérez

in 29th Havana International Festival of the New Latinamerican Cinema

by Martin Perez

A couple argues during a long-distance bus trip. They do it in a way that makes you think they’ve been a couple for a long time — not because of their arguments but because of their absence. Inés continues to argue; Miguel prefers to sleep. Their final destination is a small, out-of-season seaside town.

When they arrive, Inés — who has barely ceased to talk since the beginning of the movie — hurries to get off the bus, defiantly. The bus goes ahead, but Miguel never gets off. Inés ends up alone in the middle of nowhere, at a stop that she quickly realizes is not hers. She has a long walk ahead, carrying her bag until arriving at her destination. The weekend should have been as a couple confronting their relationship in solitude, but the movie turns out to be a tragicomic tour-de-force about her own personal trip that is in fact a separation.

Born in Buenos Aires in 1975, star/director Ana Katz in also an author of theater plays. She studied acting at Argentinean actor Julio Chavez’s school, and took part of the internationally acclaimed Uruguayan movie Whisky. She studies filmmaking at the Universidad del Cine in Buenos Aires, and debuted with The Game of the Chair (El Juego de la Silla), which premiered in San Sebastian and won both the Opera Prima Award in Toulouse and the Casa de las Américas Prize.

Selected for “Un Certain Regard” in Cannes, A Stray Girlfriend (Una Novia Errante) continues the comic point-of-view with which Katz looks at social dysfunction, something that is practically a constant in her work. A movie funny, small, and humble, her second film presents between a brilliant beginning and ending the story of this selfish, inconsistent character, this errant girlfriend, frightened by the sudden ending of a relationship that seems to have ended long ago. Even though she doesn’t have anything to do there, Inés will go on with her senseless journey, trying to carry on with all the rites of this off-season seaside trip, but in fact only accentuating her sense of being out of place.

Even with its semi-rural setting, A Stray Girlfriend is an urban movie. At its center are those fruitless, repetitive phone calls that Inés makes to Miguel. Like a postmodern (per)version of The Human Voice, the Jean Cocteau text filmed by Roberto Rossellini, only the telephone line links Inés — the errant girlfriend with a past that she refuses to let go — with her old life with Miguel. But her arguing, begging, and demanding — always interrupted on account of the cost of the calls, problems with the line, and the mediation of an answering machine — do not build into a romantic monologue as in The Human Voice, but rather into a funny litany of the more common places of love, in a movie that contains nothing that is common.