Anna Kannava’s KISSING PARIS follows a substantial body of personal and experimental work following her highly regarded first feature DREAMS FOR LIFE and award-winning personal documentaries TEN YEARS AFTER, TEN YEARS OLDER and THE BUTLER. Kannava’s newest offering is a cinematic ride into the heart of dispossessed love. Although set mainly in Paris the film is a uniquely Australian story that speaks perhaps to the sensibilities of a European audience, yet like all of Kannava’s films belongs to a culture all of its own. Film Critic Evan Williams (The Weekend Australian) has written about Kannava’s work as being, “deeply personal and difficult to classify, a kind of poem, an aesthetic construct, beautiful, elusive, occasionally obscure, but underpinned by a strong conventional narrative.” Reviewer Andrew L. Arban (Urban Cinefile) wrote, “Anna Kannava could probably make the Moscow telephone directory look like a fascinating objet d'art she has such an innate sense of cinematic language.”
Once again in KISSING PARIS, her second drama feature, Anna Kannava has managed to push the boundaries of filmmaking into a directorial pathway that is truly individual in style and storytelling. She has created a signature work that is literary, visually beautiful, haunting and heartfelt, whilst throughout maintaining a powerful connection to its characters’‚ predicaments.
Aanya Whitehead (Producer)
MusicArtsDance films May 2008
This is a very beautiful and unhurried minimalist production tracing a romantic story - or two - between Melbourne and Paris. The central figure is Claire (Natalie Vella), a young woman travelling to Paris in the footsteps of her mother, whose collection of love letters provides a parallel narrative to Claire's own search. Will Claire discover what happened to her mother in Paris? Will she repeat her mother's experience or break away to make her own? There are many stories of unhappy young women's adventures in Paris, but this one feels more probable, less contrived. Lovers of the city will see it anew through writer-director Anna Kannava's distinctive vision - even the Eiffel Tower montage overcomes cliché - but who would have imagined Melbourne's Flinders Street Station as a romantic icon? Her first feature, Dreams for Life (2004, BIFF 2004), showed that Kannava can combine her documentary interest in real life with a lyrical approach to a fictional woman's journey of discovery. It is a different journey here, and the voice of Claire's mother's lover provides a male counterpoint, but the directorial sensibility continues. Critic Adrian Martin considered Dreams for Life to display Kannava's proud 'female aesthetic', and, in Kissing Paris, it is again in evidence; so much of the story comes from the clothes, the fabrics, and the surface textures of walls and seats. Our experience of Claire's Paris is an almost tactile one, but we also share her emotions - even if we only understand their origins at the film's end.
Frances Bonner (Brisbane International Film Festival)
KISSING PARIS is really beautiful. The story is so achingly romantic, but nicely undercut by the daughter's experiences, that whole play on the holiday romance, and that Aussie accent amidst it all.
Anne Demy-Geroe (Artistic Director)
Brisbane International Film Festival 2008
LOVE IN A TIME OF PARIS
When Melbourne film director, Anna Kannava returned to Paris in 2002 after a long absence, she knew where her next film would be set. “I forgot how magnificent Paris was, and I really wanted to find an excuse to go there again. Kannava said. “So I decided to make a film there. I was there in the 1980s when I was young, but it took a long time for me to return. I went back in 2002 and just seeing the city again made me fall in love with it. Kannava’s second feature, Kissing Paris, will premiere at the Brisbane International Film Festival (BIFF) on August 7. Some films are made in cities that are irrelevant to the story line but not in this case. Paris is the film. The narrative is a straight forward one, set against the backdrop of the stunning city. Claire, played by Natalie Vella, is tired of the lack of magic in her relationship with boyfriend Andrew, so leaves Melbourne to find that missing spark in Paris. She takes along love letters written to her mother by a mysterious lover when they too were in Paris in the 1960s. “The themes of loss, elusive love, and compromise confront Claire in her search and are reinforced as she reads the letters. “It is a simple story about a woman who has been in a relationship for a long time but is starting to wonder if there is anything else, and whether the grass is greener on the other side,” Kannava said. Visually, the film is stunning. The shots of the Paris rooftops, the boulevards, cafe life and the Metro will be familiar to travellers, but Kannava’s frames are not tired. That is likely due to her innate sense of place. After leaving Cyprus at the age of 15 and moving to Australia, she knows what it is like to be cut adrift from her roots. “I understand the way you see a different place, and also what it means to leave a place you love.” Kannava said. Kannava and many other film makers no doubt feel the same way about the City of Light.
Joel Gould (Courier Mail)
A GREEK KISSES PARIS
Filmmaker Anna Kannava's latest film Kissing Paris adds to her significant body of 25 years work. Kannava may not have the profile or success of other Greek-Australian directors such as Ana Kokkinos or Alkinos Tsilimidos, but she has slowly and carefully built up a body of work over the past 25 years that is beautiful, inventive and delicately moving. From early experimental shorts to light comedy Vanilla Essence, to colourful family portraits Ten Years After ... Ten Years Older and The Butler, to her first feature film in 2004, Dreams for Life (starring Maria Mercedes), Kannava's films have always been interesting and deceptively artful. Greek themes have never been far from the surface in her work, but with her new film, her second feature, Kissing Paris, as the title boldly declares, veers off towards other cultures, feelings and different spaces. The film premiered at the Brisbane International Film Festival and has yet to be screened in Melbourne. It was created here locally, but a large proportion of it was filmed in Paris. The film's heroine, Claire, played by Natalie Vella (an actress equal parts beauty and intelligence), is nominally Maltese, but could very easily be Greek.
Nagged by a feeling of disappointment and piqued by some old love letters of her mother's, Claire decides to leave boyfriend Andrew and go to Paris for a while to explore her feelings about love and human connection. Of course, Paris is the known symbol of romance and the film is charged with this, both embracing the magic of this romance (including its self reflection) and providing a critique of it. As the love letters written by her mother's lover play out on the soundtrack, Claire aborts her way through various connections with men. The film juxtaposes the intensity of inflamed, passionate love with the mundanity of "ordinary relating" and sensibly leaves the questions hanging, impossible to answer. I am intrigued by another question though: what prompted writer/director Kannava, a Greek living in Australia, to make a film about Paris? When I was in Greece recently at the Athens International Film Festival, I was delighted to see different European cultures relating and mixing freely and my ears buzzed excitedly when hearing Greeks speaking fluent French for example. Kannava is clearly a broad-minded soul, a cultural adventurer and an intellectual investigator. As demonstrated in her other films, she is able to mix cultures, situations and feelings within the one context, in the process creating interesting connections between things and people. A small, low-budget production, it was shot on the streets and Metro of Paris very quickly, mainly by Kannava and her actress. Because of this, the film has an immediacy, freshness and documentary flavour to it that is wonderful. Kannava sees the Seine, grand old buildings and the cafes with a distinctive eye and the film swims in many playful French songs. Editor of the film, Natalya Beloborodova has taken the raw footage and created jazzy montages producing a satisfying film overall.
Bill Mousoulis (Neos Kosmos Newspaper)
THE ENIGMA OF GESTURE (Brisbane 2008)
In Anna Kannava's lovely, ultra-low-budget digital Australian feature, Kissing Paris (2008), we see a humorous version of the phenomenon of sudden tears: from the spectacle of the central character, Claire (Natalie Vella), alone in a small Parisian chamber, far from her male partner, making purring sounds down the telephone to get the attention of her cat back home, the film cuts to her still on the bed, but now sobbing helplessly.
Adrian Martin (FIPRESCI)