August 2, 2021

“Solo”, or the film portrait of Martin Perino, pianist prodigy and schizophrenic


In a psychiatric hospital, we expect to find all kinds of people, and why not geniuses, but less a virtuoso concert performer worthy of the great international stages. Yet it was there, at the Borda hospital in Buenos Aires, that Artemio Benki, producer and director of Argentine origin based in Prague, came across Martin Perino, pianist prodigy dragging his gaiters among the madmen, dispensing his wonderful flights to the keyboard to whoever wants to hear it.

What sudden departure from the track could well have brought him so far? The musician who looks like a big lost teddy bear, with his big paws and his hazy gaze, is at the heart of this first feature-length documentary, which hits theaters a little over a year after the death of its author, Artemio Benki, on April 17, 2020, at the age of 53, and two years after its presentation in Cannes in the ranks of ACID, a parallel section.

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The film, which begins within the walls of the institution, focuses on his character at the precise moment when he is about to leave it. Back in his house, the man is almost devoid of everything, starting with an instrument, but also professional contacts that would allow him to put his foot back in the stirrup. The impossible return to normal is therefore the common thread of a film which sees the pianist with difficulty reconnecting with a recalcitrant reality and as if diffracted, ” to negotiate ” perpetually with her, as he confides in a friend, despite his schizophrenic disorders and his paranoid outbursts.

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Martin scours his address book, tries to be registered at the last moment on the list of a rather metal oriented street concert, wants to play at all costs, even for five minutes, in front of an audience. An image returns, poignant, captured on the fly by the camera: that of his hands which often play in the void, tapping on a corner of the table or sometimes squarely on the floor, as if animated by interior music and a vital necessity, even at the height of destitution.

Radical maladjusted

It is therefore a portrait of the artist as radical maladjusted that Artemio Benki draws up here, bearer of an overflowing sensitivity, but whose expression singularly hinders his relationship to reality. Here, madness is approached as the main fuel of creation. It is, moreover, we learn, through his illness and between the walls of the asylum that the performer began to compose (a piece for piano and dance that he created with the dancer Soledad Marieta). The dented filming of Benki, very skin-deep, does not go without giving in to the picturesque which sometimes surrounds the evocations of madness, at least those which seek to return the stigma.

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