Sunday, March 27, 2016

Greek VFX artist Konstantinos Koutsoliotas' debut feature, THE WINTER, arrives on DVD and via IndiePix's new streaming service

Considering that Greek film-maker Konstantinos Koutsoliotas (shown below) is best known for his visual effects work on blockbusters like 300 and Guardians of the Galaxy, his debut feature film is relatively light on VFX. What's there is quite good, however, but it does more to clue viewers in to the character of the film's protagonist, Niko (played by soulful, if one-note newcomer, Theo Albanis), than to create the excitement and action that most special effects bring us.

This is all to the good, for awhile, at least, as we slowly identify with Niko and his plight. He's a writer who evidently can't -- or won't or doesn't want to -- write. And he's also in heavy financial trouble (well, he's Greek!), so he arranges for a good friend in London to take care of his pet plant and hightails it back to Greece to his former home in the hills of Siatista. So far, so good, particularly since the movie is gorgeously filmed, with stunning visuals filled with images that resonate and compositions and framing that bring them to fine life. In fact, the opening scene -- in which a man sits somberly at a work table and then slowly disappears -- is simultaneously beautiful, sad and strangely riveting.

The actor that plays this man (our protagonist's late father) is noted Greek thespian, Vangelis Mourikis, shown above, and he has a face -- baggy-eyed and haunting -- that you will not easily forget. Albanis, too, as his son (below) is blessed in the "interesting face" department.

When special effects are called for -- in fantasy animation, below, or in that key scene used on the box art (at top) and shown more completely two photos down -- the filmmaker finds symbolic images that alternately sparkle and darkly resonate.

If visuals were all, the film would be top notch. But theme and execution are important, too. And while THE WINTER offers some ideas -- home and what it means, family and how that apple never falls far from the tree, religion and what it has to offer society (very little) -- there is finally not enough content in this 105-minute movie to warrant its length or our time. And Niko is simply not that interesting a character to keep us concerned about him. He begins the movie in an irresponsible and fraught state and goes downhill from there.

Along the way he meets some of the town's children, a pretty pharmacist, the pompous and tiresome priest, and a kindly neighbor -- any of whom prove more interesting than our protagonist, who begins the film crazy and ends it crazier. As journey's go, this is not much of one. In a way, the film becomes a kind of a character study that is missing its character.

However so many of Koutsoliotas' visuals are so damned beautiful that I would view the film for these alone. But I also wish it were a better movie.

From IndiePix Films, The Winter hits the street in DVD format this coming Tuesday, March 29. In addition to making its U.S. home enter-tainment debut on disc, the film will also be available though IndiePix’s new signature streaming subscription service, IndiePix Unlimited. For more information on this new service, click the preceding link.

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