Pity (2018)

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Direction: Babis Makridis
Country: Greece

Pity marks the second collaboration between Greek director Babis Makridis and his fellow co-writer Efthimis Filippou, the one behind inventive scripts that made Yorgos Lanthimos famous with Dogtooth, The Lobster, and The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Actually, similarities with Lanthimos’ clean yet subversive early style, especially in what concerns to tone and aesthetics, are pretty obvious here, but this shaggy-dog tale needed some more grip in its weirdness and maybe a spectacularly tragic ending, which didn’t happen, in order to succeed.

Immersed in absurdity and deadpan humor, this dark comedy shapes as a character study of a depressed lawyer (comedian Yannis Drakopoulos) who craves the pity of others to continue living. After the tragic accident that sent his 45-year-old wife (Evi Saoulidou) into a coma, this man earned all the consideration and commiseration of every person around him.

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His secretary worries about his silence and isolation at work; his longtime friend encourages him to hang out more often and rubs sunscreen on his back while at the beach; a kindhearted neighbor bakes him cakes, which he pleasantly eats in the morning in the company of his only son; and the laundry owner is always compassionate of his difficult situation. The only one looking at his case with pragmatism is his father, who promptly disregards the imaginary white hairs he claims to have grown while grieving. The described scenario radically changes when, against all the expectations, his wife recovers and returns home. By that time, dangerous thoughts invade his mind, leading to radical actions.

Sabotaging situations and lying brazenly, this man puts himself to ridicule, at the same time that proves capable of committing terrible atrocities in order to regain people’s sympathy.

Pity is morbid and ludicrous nonsense that grows tiresome, loaded with grief-imbued close-ups, trapped in a rigid pace and unchangeable atmosphere, and failing to unlock much of the positive indications patented in its inaugural phase.

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Chevalier (2015)

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Directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari
Country: Greece

Male competition is trenchantly satirized in the slow-burning “Chevalier”, a deadpan Greek comedy directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari. She got the precious help of the inventive screenwriter Efthymis Filippou, the one responsible for the eccentricity of the stories behind Giorgos Lanthimos’ films – “Dogtooth”, “Alps”, and the recent “The Lobster”.
Therefore, if you’ve seen the cited films, you know what kind of mood to expect from “Chevalier” whose zaniness and strangeness are not so appealing as the wittiness of “Attenberg”, the director’s previous.

Our eyes are turned to six buddies who embark on a peculiar fishing trip on a luxurious yacht, not to relax or spend some time together but rather to compete with each other, playing silly games that will determine who’s next to wear the prestigious Chevalier ring.
As the minutes pass, we are presented with multiple frictions among the men. 
They make the odds about who’s going to win, and each one of them, with no exception, will boast the victories or cry the failures. As humans, they try to conceal their most inner fears by embracing pride, cynicism, and an obstinate competitiveness. 

Succeeding in the goal of establishing the film as a provocative statement of masculinity, Ms. Tsangari did a competent job, commanding the male pawns with control and insight. However, her tones are invariable, since both the pace and the ridiculous posture were maintained without attaining a particular peak. 
Most of the viewers will have to find some patience if they want to keep focused on this men’s war. 
I dare to say that the idea was much bigger than the final product.

Xenia (2015)

Xenia (2015) - Movie Review
Directed by: Panos H. Koutras
Country: Greece / others

Movie Review: Panos H. Koutras’ “Xenia”, selected as the Greek entry for the best foreign-language film at the upcoming Academy Awards, is as much provocative as it is brittle. The story focuses on two drifting Greek brothers from Albanian descent whose mother died of too much drinking. Their father left home when the older one, Ody (Nikos Gelia), was two years old and the younger, Danny (Kostas Nikouli), was just a little baby. The latter, now a 16-year-old androgynous misfit with an atypical style of his own, is introduced to us in a scene that takes place in a medical office where he offers his body to a doctor who gives him money and asks if he feels better from his obsessions and hallucinations. Danny is about to leave Crete and adventure himself into Athens, where he will meet his brother. The death of their mother and the fact that their father doesn’t recognize them as his sons, let them in a situation of imminent deportation. Also, they are constantly victims of the provocation and protests, often accompanied with violence, of the fanatic nationalists who aspire to have a Greece for the Greek and the Christians. After an imprudent incident involving Danny, who shot one of those agitators in the leg, the brothers decide to meet with the former companion of their mother, the exuberant gay Tassos (Aggelos Papadimitriou) who reveals the whereabouts of their father, a candidate to the right-wing party who lives wealthily with his new family in Thessaloniki. This is exactly the city where the brothers are heading next in order to fulfill an old family dream that consists in Ody’s participation in a famous singing competition. However, the impulsive Danny takes the opportunity to visit his insensitive father, carrying a pistol in his backpack. Despite addressing the socio-political turmoil and pop-culture lived in the country, the film’s undertones oscillate unevenly between rebellious and pulpy. Sometimes it feels saccharine, losing robustness, and other times it gives false indications of wanting to go wild, which never works well when attempted. The plot, co-written by Mr. Koutras and his habitual associate Panagiotis Evangelidis, repeatedly deviates from its main course of events to indulge in long musical passages, a few forced feel-good moments, and overdramatic confrontations that seem to be taken from the Greek theater.

Stratos (2014)

Stratos (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Yannis Economides
Country: Greece / others

Movie Review: “Stratos”, best film at Thessaloniki film festival, is a solid crime thriller whose title is the name of its main character, a solitary man who served years in prison after he has murdered the men who messed with his girl. While in jail, he became the protégé of the feared inmate, Leonidas, a former mafia leader who saved his life. Now enjoying freedom again, Stratos operates secretively as a hitman for someone close to Leonidas during the daytime while at night he works in a baking factory to maintain the appearances. Despite being warned in relation to Leonidas’ brother, Yorgos, he ends up deceived while continues to finance a risky plan for digging a subterranean tunnel that was supposed to take Leonidas out of the prison. In a parallel front, Stratos will try everything to prevent a little neighbor girl from falling into the hands of the new mafia shark, Petropoulos, as a form of paying a debt owed by her negligent parents, Vicky and Maki. Petropoulos and his haughty wife also keep trying to persuade Stratos to join their dirty clan. This bleak portrait of a cold assassin is earnest and implacable, raising a moral issue that disappears during the final act when the killer opts for a righteous move. Respectful filmmaker Yannis Economides creates a remorseless character whose sense of doom becomes strongly outlined from the time he decided to do something right in his miserable life. Notable actor Vangelis Mourikis was the perfect vehicle for his intentions, in their third collaboration after “Soul Kicking” and “Knifer”. Clearly influenced by film noir dramas, the well-balanced “Stratos” holds onto a mood that is closer to Mellville’s “Le Samourai” than Corbijn’s “The American”.

Miss Violence (2013)

Miss Violence (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Alexandros Avranas
Country: Greece

Movie Review: Giorgos Lanthimos (“Dogtooth”, “Alps”) has another disciple in Alexander Avranas whose filmmaking style evinces the same heavy atmosphere, underdeveloped blunt dialogue and absence of surrounding music. “Miss Violence”, his sophomore feature film, opens with a birthday party in which the birthday girl, Angeliki, commits suicide by jumping out of the balcony. Welfare department starts an investigation, since there were no apparent reasons for the succeeded. Angeliki was living with Eleni, her disturbed single mother, two minor siblings, a suicidal teenage aunt, and her grandparents. Pain seemed inexistent among the family members who demonstrate to be unaffected with the death, but soon we realize they share terrible secrets. Eleni is pregnant and we never see any other men around, fact that made me instantly think of incest, while her father, a slacker who doesn’t want to work, lives exclusively to control and exploit his family. This psychologically aggressive tale about a dysfunctional family and domestic abuse can be very disturbing, but can’t compete with masterpieces such as “Dogtooth” or “Happiness”. Despite one or other new nuances in the plot, I had the impression that I had seen this before, pretty much with the same elements and mood, but much more intriguing and better told. Notwithstanding, Avranas did an appreciable job on direction (‘Silver Lion’ at Venice), while Themis Panou and Eleni Roussinou were absolutely terrific and convincing as father and daughter.

Mikra Anglia (2013)

Mikra Anglia (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Pantelis Voulgaris
Country: Greece

Movie Review: “Mikra Anglia” is a grievous drama directed by veteran Greek filmmaker Pantelis Voulgaris, based on Ioanna Karystiani’s novel of the same name. The film is set on the Greek island of Andros in 1930, where many women mourn for their beloved men, dead or lost at sea. Orsa is madly in love with Spyros, a brave seaman who promises to marry her after his return from the next trip, which will make him captain, a fundamental condition for the marriage to happen. Spyro’s retired uncle, Emilius, is the one to talk to Orsa’s mother, Mina, to ask for her permission but the answer was a short 'no', since his family is far from the wealth she wants for their daughters. Tormented and abandoned, Mina tries to protect her daughter from having a fate like hers, since her husband, captain Savvas, lives most of the time with his other wife and kid in Argentina. When Mina forces Orsa to hastily marry captain Nikos, Spyros, now a respected captain too, decides to have his revenge asking for the hand of Orsa’s younger sister, Moscha. The situation seems unbearable when the entire family starts living under the same roof. The film takes its time to makes us absorb completely the torments lived by each of the characters – repressed love, absence, guilt, infidelity, fear of losing the loved ones – they’re all silent sufferers who are trying to find some solace in their lives. Will it be possible for the two sisters count with each other? Poetic in words, precise in its images, and sad as a Greek tragedy, “Mikra Anglia” depicts a plausible and bitter reality in tones of homage for all those anguished women.

Meteora (2012)

Meteora (2012)
Directed by: Spiros Stathoulopoulos
Country: Greece / others

Review: The second feature film by Greek helmer Spiros Stathoulopoulos adopts a simple storyline but delivers a lot of complexity in emotional and moral terms. The film, presented almost like a documentary, skillfully combines sublime images of the Greek city Meteora and animation that serves the purpose to better explain what was going on in the heads of the protagonists, as well as give a better context of the whole scene. A forbidden love story between a monk and a nun, who live in neighboring Orthodox monasteries with very little accessibility, is presented through beautiful shots and appealing contrasts of light. Their doubts and uneasiness can be perceived since the beginning when they ask: “what is humanity?” or “God, do you love the way we love each other?”. All the images carry a significant weight punctuated by strong symbolism that made me think of Theo Angelopoulos’s films, but here in an exclusively religious context rather than political. The profound silences are very intuitive and the scenes are processed slowly but with a firm conviction, making us absorb all the sensations. Stathoulopoulos shows us, not just what happens inside the monasteries with all of its rites and chants, but also outside them, in the fields where plantations and goats are handled by villagers as a form of subsistence. “Meteora” is a rewarding and incisive film about desire, sin, faith, and human conscience, which comes strongly recommended.

Alps (2011)

Alps (2011)
Directed by: Giorgos Lanthimos
Country: Greece

Summary: A group of people start a new odd business.
Review: “Alps” is an obscure movie, coming from the director of “Dogtooth” (2009), where the bizarre and obsession interact to provoke the viewer. Lanthimos has something in his favor: he always sets the right mood and pace in order to intrigue us somehow. As expected, “Alps” has a very strong psychological component and easily delivers a sense of loneliness and anguish from their characters. We are talking about a slightly different cult group, but still a harmful group with a stern determination in replacing other people’s lives when they die, just to fill their own emptiness. Dark humor adorns the weirdness of the plot, making “Alps” a good choice for the alternative movies’ fans.
Relevant awards: Best screenplay (Venice); special mention (Sofia).

Attenberg (2010)

Realizado por: Athina Rachel Tsangari
País: Grécia
Interessantíssima abordagem à vida de Mariana, que com 23 anos encontra-se obcecada pelo facto de ser virgem e de não possuir qualquer interesse sexual por ninguém, ao contrário da sua melhor amiga Bella, já muito experiente. A relação entre ambas não é muito afectiva, vivendo mais dos momentos de descompressão, quando realizam uma espécie de "dança animal" para ajudar a passar o dia. Ao mesmo tempo, Mariana cuida do pai gravemente doente, com quem vai limando os pormenores sobre o funeral que se prevê para breve. Mais uma prova da qualidade do cinema grego, após o recente "dogtooth" e as obras do genial Theo Angelopoulos, ao longo de mais de duas décadas.



Dogtooth (2010)

Realizado por: Yorgos Lanthimos
País: Grécia

Altamente perturbador, este é um filme que não pode deixar de ser falado depois de visto. Ou se adora, ou se odeia, mas ninguém ficará indiferente. Com realização e interpretações de alta qualidade, é-nos apresentado um retrato de uma família disfuncional que vive numa casa completamente isolada do mundo exterior, por imposição do pai.
Jogos perversos, masoquismo, incesto e alteração de vocabulário, são praticados por esta família de forma natural, chocando o espectador pela sua imoralidade.
O filme-choque do ano, é portador de uma violência extrema, sobretudo psicológica, não sendo aconselhável aos mais vulneráveis.