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September 19, 2023



Ann Oren - 2022

The title is an equestrian term, basically having a horse trot in place. Eva, who becomes so horse identified, is unable to stay in place, compulsively in motion. Ann Oren's film is made up of ellipses in the beginning. The various seemingly unrelated pieces do come together to create a narrative that at certain points share some of the themes of David Cronenberg. Eva's body mutates, but Oren dispenses with any kind of direct pseudo-scientific explanations.

Eva is working as a foley artist, attempting to create the sounds of a horse to be used in a television commercial. She is substituting for her transgender sister, Zara, currently a patient in a mental hospital. The commercial is for a psychotropic drug called Equali. Even the name of the drug is a kind of pun with horseback riding compared to mood enhancement. Eva tries various methods of creating realistic sounds of both the horse and its trot. The itch on her lower back is the horse tail that she grows. Rather than be horrified by this mutation, Eva lets the tail grow long enough to be seen under her dresses.

The botanist, Novak, seen in the the film's beginning sequence is introduced studying slides of various plants. When he explains some of his work to Eva, Novak discusses a fern that has both male and female spores, concluding that the concept of gender in plants can not be understood in human terms. While not stated as such, this scene raises questions as to whether there could be a genetic component to gender dysphoria as with Zara, or if Eva's horse tail is the physical manifestation of psychological imbalance. Novak caresses Eva's tail and the two make love. Eva's identity as a female is called to question with a close-up of her shaved tail, like that of many mammals with a shape resembling that of a penis.

Piaffe is the German based Ann Oren's first narrative feature. The film grew from her short film, Passage which was about a foley artist creating the sound for a film about a dressage horse. That film starred Simon(e) Jaikiriuma Paetau, who appears as Zara in Piaffe. It seems too coincidental that Eva is played by another Simone, the Mexican actress Simone Bucio. That sense of coincidence repeats itself knowing that Bucio appeared in the film The Untamed, in which women are seduced into sex with an unearthly creature. Shots of legs, those of Eva and horses, get repeated. Multiple viewings might be needed to understand the use of dressing the main cast in clothing of solid colors. While Piaffe has been released in NYC and Los Angeles, it is getting a very slow rollout nationwide in select theaters.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at September 19, 2023 07:08 AM