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FEATURING: Simone Bucio, Sebastian Rudolph, Simon(e) Jaikiriuma Paetau
PLOT: A woman grows a horse tail when she accepts a job creating equine foley effects for an antidepressant commercial.
COMMENTS: Rather than hiding the horse tail growing out of her backside, as one would expect, Eva cuts a hole in the rear of her pants so it can stick out. (This is likely a fetish for a very particular audience.) She’s grown the unnatural appendage during her obsessive observation of horse behavior, after being advised to “go out and look at some animals” so that she can imitate equine noises for an antidepressant commercial. The tail looks completely ridiculous: at least, until the film’s final twitching image.
But even aside from that mutation, the world of Piaffe is strange. It’s not quite full-fledged surrealist piece, but it transgresses the boundaries of simple magical realism. Eva shares some sort of undefined workspace with a botanist who uses an antique rotating platform of dubious scientific value to study unfurling ferns. The company commissioning her foley work is helmed by an aggressively blond man with the worst bowl haircut seen onscreen in some time; his assistants are equally blond and sport equally bad haircuts, as if they’re all members of some weird horse-sound commissioning cult. The nurse at the mental hospital where her non-binary sibling Zara is checked in goes beyond Nurse Ratchet rude, into the realm of the aspiring dominatrix. The entire world seems set up to frustrate the shy girl, who is terrified of others. She might, it seems, benefit from a dose of Equili, the antidepressant whose advertisement she’s been scoring.
Eva finds the strength to emerge from her shell by carefully observing a horse, and even more so by finding the courage to approach the botanist. He opens her up with some b&d rose play—an erotic image with a unique sense of danger. Repeated, if less memorable, bondage sequences follow, before Eva rejects him mid-seduction, without expressing a reason. Perhaps the return of Zara from the hospital has something to do with it…
Piaffe describes a woman’s growing confidence, as she becomes a competent foley artist and a sexually mature being. This trans-adjacent film traffics in an uncomfortable blurring of sexual boundaries: between male and female, consensual and non-consensual, human and animal. There are meaningful connections and memorable scenes, and yet it often feels like an overstretched premise rather than a story. That may be due to the fact that it began its life as a 13-minute short called “Passage,” which starred the androgynous Simon(e) Jaikiriuma Paetau as the foley artist. Pateau plays Zara in Piaffe, with a long horse-like mane but no visible tail. In Piaffe‘s liminal context, it seems only appropriate that they would shift from one character to another.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY: