Fringe! Film Festival Review: Performance

Originally published on So So Gay on 12 November 2014.

Struggling artists Paula (Paulita Pappel) and Rodrigo (Rodrigo Garcia Alves) are attempting to make a name for themselves in Berlin with their performance art collective. With a lack of funds but a wealth of enthusiasm, the pair start putting together a conceptual piece about love, but hit hurdles along the way, not least of which is Rodrigo’s potential repatriation to Brazil.

In an interesting twist for a piece of LGBT cinema, Performance contains a cast full of queer characters, yet their sexuality is almost entirely irrelevant to the plot. Predominantly a straightforward drama with the occasional documentary-style interview cutaways and narration, Performance is a rather strange beast.

Made on a small budget, the penurious nature of the protagonists and their setting means this it isn’t immediately obvious; more the giveaway is the uneven acting talent. While Pappel and Garcia Alves are competent leads, the supporting numbers vary in calibre. Catalina Jordan Alvarez as Rodrigo’s friend and Paula’s love interest, Cata is great and has a good chemistry with Pappel, but Garcia Alves is less convincing with his character’s other half (Alexander Alvina Chamberland).

There’s also a significant issue with the film’s plot, which is skittish and has no overarching story. It touches on immigration, monogamy, the trials and tribulations of being a performance artist, and has a multinational and multilingual cast that gives it an interesting base to explore all these topics on. However, by trying to cover an array of disparate topics in such a short space of time (Performance runs for barely an hour), the result is that everything is dealt with fleetingly and to a generally unsatisfactory level. Just as you think a storyline is about to be explored, it’s dropped and not picked up again. The fact that it is such a short feature makes it all the more curious that precious seconds are given over to numourous pointless and bloated scenes, such as Rodrigo’s part-time love interest shown dressed up in Amy Winehouse drag delivering an atrocious performance of a song, or Paula shown babysitting for a completely superfluous character.

Like the cast of characters themselves, Performance feels like an artistic indulgence with no clear point or purpose. While some of the actors manage to convey an engaging persona despite Amelia Bande’s fairly lacklustre script – mainly Pappel – others are either one-note or, even worse, merely a nameless face. Like the pretentious endeavours of the characters on screen, Performance may have had big ideas but it ultimately meanders around for its brief runtime and achieves very little.

Paula (Paulita Pappel) and Cata (Catalina Jordan Alvarez) share a hair-raising moment.
Paula (Paulita Pappel) and Cata (Catalina Jordan Alvarez) share a hair-raising moment.

Performance played as part of the 2014 Fringe! Queer Film and Arts Festival on 8 November. Assets courtesy Fringe!.

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