Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Greek "Oscar" submission, Athina Rachel Tsangari's ATTENBERG, opens

From what we might assume -- considering the movies that this country has lately submitted for Best Foreign-Language Film consideration -- Dogtooth last year (which managed, incredibly, to reach final nomination status) and this year ATTENBERG, which, though better than its predecessor, didn't even make the shortlist -- Greece is a country desperately in need of help. And not simply economic help, which we know from daily newspaper headlines, but psychological, social, and sexual, too. Please: Give this country a life coach. I jest, of course, but not entirely. I mean, don't you sometimes wonder: How did they get from Homer to here? There is something so irredeemably creepy and constrained about these two films, as well as others I've seen from Greece over the past decade or two, that I can only mourn all the more the passing this year of the great Greek filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos.

Written and directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari (shown at left, who also helped produce Dogtooth), Attenberg, takes its name from the mispronunciation of the name Attenborough, as in David, whose British wildlife documentaries appear to be the only staple of TV viewing for our heroine and her dying dad (mom's long gone). This attractive young woman, Marina, is brought to life in believable fashion (which is no small compliment considering how nearly unbelievable the character usually appears) by Ariane Labed (below, right, learning to French kiss) in her film debut. She is greatly in need of help. How she has managed to reach the late teens while remaining clueless-to-the-max is one for the books.

But she has, and so we must accept this or give up on the film entirely. And as there are some very interesting scenes to come, let's not. Her best friend and chief competitor, Bella (Evangelia Randou, above, left), seems to have a bit of a thing for that sickly dad (Vangelis Mourikis, whose performance helps immensely to ground the film), and later on, Marina attempts to connect the two sexually -- more as a gift to dad than to Bella.

Marina, who makes some income driving engineers from hotel to work site (above), takes up with one of these (below) -- which makes for some of the movie's more amusing, if again, barely believable, scenes. This kissing and sex business, not to mention the reactions from the body of the male, are so new to her that she finds it necessary to verbally describe everything she's doing and going through (below) to the recipient.

She and Bella also love to walk, march and dance in tandem, sometimes quite suggestively, which they do periodically (below and on the poster, top). All this is fun for awhile, but even at only 95 minutes, the movie is too long. My first note taken during its screening was "could use some editing" and by the end of the movie I had scribbled this several times. Yet the story itself is compelling and would be more so, were it not simply too bizarre. And almost willfully so. (Though, for "bizarrosity," there is not much from any country that beats out Dogtooth.)

From Strand Releasing, the movie opens in New York City tomor-row, March 9, at the IFC Center, and in Los Angeles on Friday, April 6th, at Laemmle’s Monica 4-Plex and Pasadena Playhouse 7 -- followed by a limited national rollout.

No comments: