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8th Greek Film Festival

Black Out
Black Out
(Menelaos Karamaghiolis)

16-25 April 2000, 
Treasury Theatre,  Melbourne

part of the Antipodes Festival 
film festival curator:  Eleni Bertes

A welcome annual event this one, considering the paucity of Greek films in the cinemas and in other festivals (though a number do make it to SBS-TV).

But 95% of the audience were Greek - "Greek pride" is almost as self-marginalising as "Gay pride". Festival curator Eleni Bertes is aware of this problem, and so hopefully some cultural cross-fertilisation will occur in the future with this festival (which has now established itself as a fixture of the Melbourne film calendar.)

Quick impressions of the films now follow, in the order I saw them in.

(MY RATINGS SYSTEM:   0 = Bottom Ten of all time;  1 = Abysmal;  2 = Very Poor;  3 = Poor;  4 = Below Average;  5 = Average;  6 = Good;  7 = Very Good;  8 = Great;  9 = Masterpiece;  10 = Top Ten of all time.)

The Canary Yellow Bicycle 
dir: Dimitris Stavrakas, 1999

A strange choice for Opening Night film, but obviously chosen as a response to the complaints last year's Opener, From the Edge of the City, a Head On (Ana Kokkinos, 1998)-like odyssey, got from certain audience members. Bicycle is your safe, "humanist" bet. That said, I much prefer this film! Caring, sensible (but irrational in love!) teacher helps a mocked, partly-illiterate boy (a dead ringer for the kid in Cassavetes' 1980 Gloria). A much-filmed story, but nicely handled here, with simplicity and gentleness. The style and rhythm are like a mix of Angelopoulos and Bresson - subtle grace notes aimed for constantly (and hit many times).   (6)

The Man in Grey
Pericles Hoursoglou, 1998

The art film style, treating everyday themes, continues with this film, the director's second. Hoursoglou has worked with Pantelis Voulgaris (It's a Long Road [1998]) and it shows. How wonderful it is to see 60 year olds kissing! The idea of the retiring man in crisis (á la Kurosawa's 1952 Ikiru) is always a bit clichéd and implausible, and this film doesn't break any new ground with it. Leonidas (Yorgos Michalakopoulos) has an affair, but he returns to his family. The last few scenes are quite charged. One shot in particular of his wife Maro (Rania Economidou) is great - she jumps when Leonidas unexpectedly walks into the house. Yes, even for 60 year olds, life can have its shocks.  (6)

The Numbered
Tassos Psarras, 1999

Standard, derivative thriller, where the small-time, perennial loser Manos (the Russell Crowe-lookalike Fotis Spyros) scams a fortune via the internet and how a private dick then .... You get the picture. Uninspiring melange of this genre material with a slick production design. Left me cold.    (4)

The Mating Game
Olga Malea, 1998

This is probably what Emma-Kate Croghan's Strange Planet (1998) would have been like if it had any zest or imagination. The Mating Game also recalls the TV show Sex and the City, but, thankfully, it doesn't have that show's self-consciousness. Three sisters, looking for love, and making all those terrible mistakes that we sometimes make. Sisters. This film has a clear-cut feminist energy to it that is quite delightful to experience.    (6)

Safe Sex
Thanassis Papathanasiou,  1999

A bit like a dumbed-down version of The Mating Game, but with none of the feminism. Plenty of unsafe sex practised here, by more characters than are in Magnolia (P.T. Anderson, 1999) and Happiness (Todd Solondz, 1998) combined! Two sold-out sessions of this had the audiences laughing hard. Hey, and I was too. This is a fast, witty, vulgar, colourful comedy (with some acute observations thrown in there also actually).    (6)

Black Out
Menelaos Karamaghiolis, 1998

Oh boy. 160 minutes of an unstructured mess, three films (yes, three distinct formal ideas) rolled into one. Its stylisations do not make up for its shallow characterisations and pretentious metaphysics.   (4)

The Photographers
Nikos Koundouros, 1998

Could this possibly be directed by the man responsible for Magic City (1954) and The Ogre (1956)? I haven't seen any of his films made after those two, and The Photographers hardly makes me want to! This is an incredibly out-of-control and misjudged film. It bears all the signs of a patch-job (maybe the director was only able to give general instructions, due to age/ill health?). Thematically and stylistically, it has many similarities to the over-rated Three Kings (David O. Russell, 1999). The TV interviews with the mercenaries, where they speak their own various languages, are interesting. Otherwise, this film contains some of the cinema's worst acting ever.    (2)

Attack of the Giant Moussaka
Panos Koutras, 1999

I guess the title says it all - it's a satire on that genre. With the necessary updating - media coverage of the event, and a camp regard (aesthetically, but also with the choice of characters).    (5)


An Athens Summer Night's Dream
Dimitris Athanitis, 1999

Earth and Water
Panos Karkanevatos, 1999

Let the Women Wait
Stavros Tsiolis, 1998

Angelos Franzis, 1999

© Bill Mousoulis May 2000

This review first appeared in Senses of Cinema, No.6, May 2000.