Argentinian director David Marcial Valverdi’s The Sharpness of the Scissors (★★★☆☆) resists easy categorization.
It is partly a documentary chronicle of the declining years of the throuple he was part of for seven years and partly personal history of the dating and cruising scene before and after, all interwoven with stories of his own family and personal life.
The relaxing of Argentine attitudes towards sexuality are hinted at, but more as an afterthought lingering in the background. Both as a filmmaker and the subject, Valverdi displays a consistent lack of interest in the opinions of strangers.
To go into the film expecting narrative coherence might be missing the point. If Valverdi’s thematic choices seem scattered and somewhat random, he is not only aware, he actively leans into it.
His ethos is echoed in the collage-like visuals interspersed throughout the film, with papery animations frequently emerging from grainy home video footage and fly-on-the-wall camera work.
Eventually, stories do emerge — his sexual awakening via the early dating websites that predated the apps, his supportive grandmother’s declining health, and the tension of a throuple that we know from early on is heading towards its eventual end but that we can’t look away from.
It is no accident, then, that the film reads visually as a sort of moving collage, its pages flipping to return to a dream of a circlejerk in a local park here, home video footage of a haircut there, and drawn-out scenes from the simmering personal drama of a doomed polyamorous relationship throughout.
His skill as a director is apparent as he manages to ensure these different threads all gel into something visually and artistically coherent.
The Sharpness of the Scissors stubbornly insists that it be taken on its own terms. It is too complex and too outside convention to pass for an easy watch.
At the same time, although it demands a certain amount of attention, it unfolds quickly and unexpectedly enough that it resists intellectualization at the same time. All that’s left to do is experience his intimate portrait of his own life and react at the pace it sets out.
The Sharpness of the Scissors plays exclusively in the Virtual Festival through Oct. 29.
Reel Affirmations 2023 includes the Virtual Film Festival, providing online access to 43 films for those film lovers who cannot attend the festival in person, with a viewing window from Oct. 23 to 29.
Browse the full Virtual Festival catalog here.
Buy Virtual Festival passes here.
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