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A Greek kisses Paris

Anna Kannava in Paris

Local filmmaker Anna 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 the light comedy Vanilla Essence, to the 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), her films have always been very 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, she, as the title boldly declares, veers off towards other cultures, other feelings, different spaces.  The film, which premiered at the Brisbane International Film Festival, but has yet to be screened in Melbourne, 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 well 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-reflexion) 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 various men.  The film juxtaposes the intensity of inflamed, passionate love with the mundanities of “ordinary relating”, and sensibly leaves the questions hanging, impossible to answer.


I am intrigued by one other 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.  If any Greek person in Melbourne suddenly started speaking French or Italian, it would be a tremendous shock.


Kannava is clearly a broad-minded soul, a cultural adventurer, and an intellectual investigator.  As demonstrated in her other films also, she is able to mix cultures, situations and feelings within the one context, in the process creating interesting connections between things and people.


Kissing Paris is a delightul film on many other levels also though, and I urge everyone to track it down when it is finally screened and released in Melbourne.  A small, low-budget production, it was shot on the streets and Metro of Paris very quickly, mainly just by Kannava and her actress, and because of this has an immediacy, freshness, and documentary flavour to it that is wonderful.  Kannava sees the Seine, and the grand old buildings, and the cafes, with a distinctive eye, and the film swims in many playful French songs.  And the editor Natalya Beloborodova has taken the raw footage and created jazzy montages and a satisfying overall film, from sometimes rough, quick shots.


On my recent trip to Greece, I went to other European cities too, including Paris, and it is indeed an intoxicating place.  Lovers stop at street corners and kiss, replicating those famous photos from the past.  Are they playing with the cliché?  Are they building a new expression?  Are they simply in love?  All three I’d say.

© Bill Mousoulis July 2009
This review first appeared in Neos Kosmos, 7 July 2009. reference