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Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray Review: Suntan (Dir. Argyris Papadimitropoulos, 2017)

In keeping with 2015’s Chevalier and The Lobster, Argyris Papadimitropoulos’ Suntan also places masculinity and middle-age under the microscope, it also happens to be Greek. Billed as a “coming of middle-age story”, it focusses upon Kostis (Maki Papadimitriou) who arrives on the island of Antiparos to take over as the new Doctor. As his new found friend Takis (Yannis Tsortekis) – think Chet Pussy (Cheech Marin) in From Dusk Till Dawn – explains only during the summer months does the island come to life and teems with tourists who inhabit the camping site just outside of the small city centre.

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This summer brings with it, Anna (Elli Tringou), Jason (Dini Hart), Alin (Hara Kotsali), Mila (Milou Van Groesen) and Morten (Marcus Collen); an obnoxious bunch of youths who are determined to enjoy their holiday to the nth degree. They soon find themselves in Kostis’ examination room when Anna falls off her bike and upon treating her, the good doctor’s heart begins to flutter.

The sun, sea, and sand serves as a glorious backdrop, making sufficient use of lens flare as Kostis starts to “accidentally” run into the group who all seem intent on encouraging him and using him to amuse, abuse and buy them beer. They are sexually liberated spoilt brats whose nubile tanned taut flesh is often shot juxtaposing the Doc’s pale, hairy middle-aged paunch – the camera shames him and objectifies them, especially Anna.

His overeagerness is sweet yet cringeworthy and his lack of self-awareness overwhelming. We are initially invited, perhaps even encouraged to feel for him, he’s lonely, he missed the boat in some areas of life, he has regrets of youth, it’s easy enough but then, things take a turn.  His unlikely friendship with the woman half his age becomes an obsession, and his entitlement and aggressive behaviour gives way to darkness and a misogyny that is breathtaking.

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Papadimitriou embodies the sad-sack Kostis beautifully and while the ending comes as a bit of a shock, the lead up to the breakdown is heartbreaking and difficult to watch. Call it a cautionary tale or a painful parable yet Suntan is a solidly directed and acted Greek (New Wave) tragedy, however, where The Lobster and Chevalier relied upon biting satire within its drama, this falls short of humour and just plays out as dark, upsetting, and all a bit mean.

EXTRAS

Interview with director Argyris Papadimitropoulos (26 mins) –  Delivered in segments the director discusses the origins of the film, script, casting, and filming. Papadimitropoulos has a long standing history with the island of Antiparos, having began visiting at aged 16, he never wanted to recreate on film but depict it as it truly is. He talks about where the idea for the script came from (actually following his reading of Michel Houellebecq’s Whatever) which made him think of those who have access to pleasure and those who don’t. Thinking on the dichotomies in the film, it makes sense even down to the casting of the non-professional and inexperienced Elli Tringou opposite the “genius” of Makis Papadimitriou. This in depth sit-down with Suntan‘s filmmaker is really interesting and well worth watching after the main feature.

The Making of Suntan (15 mins) – A run-of-the-mill behind the scenes documentary-style featurette with a seriously good soundtrack, very Club La Luna, and in complete contrast to the previous extra.

Deleted Scenes – These include ‘Boogaloo’, ‘Downhill’, ‘Kalargyros’, ‘Milu Pees’ and ‘Camping’.

Theatrical Trailer

1080p Presentation on the Blu-ray|Progressive encode on the DVD|5.1 Surround and Stereo soundtrack options|Optional English subtitles (containing 1 or 2 errors)

Categories
Film Festival Review

Review: Chevalier (Dir. Athina Rachel Tsangari, 2015)

LFF 2015

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Economic crisis birthed a Greek New Wave with Athina Rachel Tsangari leading the fore. Historically, she has written, produced and/or directed many of the films associated with the Greek film industry resurgence – Dogtooth, Alps, Attenberg (and acted in Before Midnight too with her lead actor Panos Koronis). She and fellow Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster) screened at this year’s LFF.

Tsangari’s last cinematic outlets Attenberg (2010) and her 2012 short The Capsule heavily featured females and their place in – and on the periphery of – the world around them; the director’s next concentrates on the adult male. In spite of its gallic sounding name, Chevalier is very much Greek. Set upon a yacht amid the Aegean Sea and a palette of pale greys and marine blues, it is like Attenberg in that the look is minimalist playing against the backdrop of the Aegean and the insular interior of the boat.

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We never find out what brought these men together, or why they decided on a boat-trip. There are indications as to how they know each other: the Doctor and his handsome predecessor, the Insurance salesman nudist son-in-law, and his loner-genius brother who cannot go into the water (although, we never find out why), the one who spends an inordinate amount of time on his hair, and his pal; they are all friends of sorts. Growing tired of the tedium of card playing and incongruity of asking each other what fruit they see each other as, they decide to make things interesting and create a new game – who is the best in general? They start marking each other on everything, from sleeping posture, the ability to make an IKEA shelving unit, to the size and girth of their erections. The Chevalier of the title is referenced by a signet ring, often worn by French nobility and although its meaning varies depending upon which culture it inhabits, it is also a decoration given by a Patriarch of the Orthodox Church/Knight/Nobleman. You get the gist.

Co-written by Efthymis Filippou (Alps, Dogtooth) which may give an indiction the absurdist direction the film will veer. As to the journey, we’re all along for the boat-ride. To see these men primp and preen is a riot and even I relished (and perhaps snorted) at the male insecurity and ludicrous machismo on display as characters start to examine themselves in the mirror and bemoan the size of their thighs; an anxiety usually associated with female culture.

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There is little guidance in relation to interpretation; the film can be read in socio-political terms especially when the game catches on with the boat’s chef and porter but Tsangari never leads one way or another.  Friendships will be tested and manipulated, blood bonds broken and formed as the best man overall is discovered.

Chevalier is a rebellious, brilliantly mordant and shrewd satire of the male ego. It is absurdist, surreal in parts, and hilariously droll from start to finish. It takes an astute filmmaker to hold a mirror up to society and provoke laughter and it will make you laugh. A lot.