“Pfiaff” Has U.S. Premiere at 58th Chicago International Film Festival

When her sibling Zara suffers a nervous breakdown, the introverted Eva is forced to take on Zara’s job as a Foley artist. She struggles to create sounds for a commercial featuring a horse. The commercial is for a mood stabilizer known as Equili, which, among other side effects, can lead to high blood sugar inducing coma and death.

The title “Pfiaffe” derives from a diagonal dressage movement and from the French verb “to strut” or “to paw the ground”.  The film is German, with subtitles and was shot in Berlin.

“Pfiaff” director Ann Oren.

“Pfiaffe” won the Best International Feature at the Calgary International Film Festival and the Junior Jury Award at the Locarno International Film Festival. Here in Chicago, the film was nominated for the Gold Hugo New Directors Competition. Its showing on October 20th was its United States premiere.

When a ridiculously coiffed director tells Eva that her sound work for the Equili commercial is not up to snuff, he suggests to her that she actually go out and learn what a horse sounds like. Eva does so and seems quite smitten with horses, in general.

The director explained that, as in the beginning of the film “Nope,” this was related to the few minutes of film thought to be the very first moving picture image ever captured. The short piece of film was captured by 19th century inventor and adventurer Eadweard Muybridge in 1878. Muybridge had been commissioned to study the movement of a galloping horse.

Then, a horsetail starts growing out of Eva’s body. Empowered by her tail, she lures a botanist into an affair through a game of submission. Lots of erotic imagery, including Eva swallowing an entire rose, stem and all.

PIAFFE is a visceral journey into control, gender, and artifice. It is sexy and proves that men always want to get a little tail. (small joke there).

But, seriously, the horse tail really works for Eva (Simone Bucio). She commences the strange affair with the botanist  and dances with abandon at a night club. We also learn a lot about how ferns are self-fertilizing hermaphrodites.

Piaffe is Ann Oren’s first feature after a decade of working as an artist. The director said, “The film began, for me, with images.” She called the film “a playful drama with comic interludes.”

She also described the lead actor having to rehearse via zoom from Switzerland, because it was shot during Covid.

Director Ann Oren of “Pfiaff.”

Asked about the choice of Simone Bucio to portray Eva, Director Oren said, “Some actresses just didn’t get the voyage of the character.”

Of Bucio’s audition, Oren said, “I saw something very special in her. Every one of her takes was so powerful.”

Director Ann Oren was present at the screening I attended and said, “I don’t know what to compare it to. It’s its own thing.” (It certainly is!)

The film opens wide in the U.S. on November 3rd.

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