Monday, 24 January 2011

ATTENBERG REVIEW: It's Greek to Me, and I Like It!

Attenberg begins with two young women kissing, but what you are seeing is not lesbian ardor, it’s sex education: the virgin heroine Marina (Ariane Labed)is being instructed in the art of French kissing by her sexually experienced friend Bella (Evangelia Randou).

There is sex and nudity in Attenberg (the town after which the film is named), but there is no passion, and the barren existence that Marina lives is reflected in the “ruins” of empty buildings in the dying factory town and by her father’s terminal illness. Marina’s relationship with her father (Vangelis Mourikis) is an open exchange of scholarly understanding and love; her relationship with a visiting engineer (Giorgos Lanthimos) is more academic interest than romantic love or even lust. Her friend Bella’s promiscuity never seems to be based on any true carnality, and Marina’s widowed father hasn’t had sex in a long time. A miasma of lifelessness hangs about the town.

At the core of writer/director Athina Rachel Tsangari’s film is the examination of human behaviour. She sets four principal characters against a backdrop of a vacant seaside town. Even the scenes are sparsely populated with most scenes depicting Marina and another principal character. Framing the town and the story are zoo-like elements: clips of Richard Attenborough's animal documentaries and the “silly walks”/animal mimicry antics. Our participation in the film comes from watching the characters in the "Attenborough-like" world created by Tsangari.

I saw Attenberg because I wanted to hear Greek. I grew up hearing my friends speaking it and I had been missing the language of my youth. The last Greek film I had seen was the epic, The Weeping Meadow, by Theodoros Angelopoulos (2004). I knew that Attenberg would be a much smaller picture and I wanted to see what filmmaker, Athina Rachel Tsangari had to bring to the screen. Well, I heard Greek and was pleased; and, the fresh, independent spirit of a filmmaker that has dared to bring her own unique vision to the screen satisfied my curiosity. I especially enjoyed the dialogue between the intellectual Marina and her learned architect father, Spyros.

Attenberg will not be to everybody's taste--it may be a little to quirky for some-- but it has garnered some awards, which will, no doubt, inspire more Greek filmmakers to take advantage of this window of opportunity. If their ideas are as individual as Tsangari’s, then Greek cinema promises to bring some excitement to the current play-it-safe cinematic landscape.

Jan 21st – Jan 27th
Royal Cinema
608 College St. West

View schedule and trailer

Released by filmswelike

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