Color, 2005, 93m.
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring Evangelia Randou, Aris Servetalis, Costas Xikominos
Second Run (UK R0 PAL) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
Before he made a name for himself in international cinema with Alps and especially the amazing Dogtooth (a.k.a. the most explicit film ever nominated for an Oscar), Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos got his start as a solo feature director with the surreal, challenging mood piece Kinetta, which stretches the definition of what constitutes a film narrative almost to the breaking point. Not surprisingly, it provoked some very extreme reactions during its festival screenings and earned very divisive reviews, a trend that has continued with the director's work ever since.
The title refers to the desolate Greek village where meet our three protagonists: a cop (Xikominos) who acts as a sort of amateur director and indulges in a taste for trashy Russian immigrants, a photo clerk (Alps' Servetalis) who acts as a cinematographer for the cop, and a maid (Randou) who enacts violent scenarios against herself both in private for rehearsal and in front of their camera. The purpose is ostensibly to reenact crimes as short films to help solve them, but in practice it's really a means to spin the characters around as the clerk becomes infatuated with and protective of the increasingly self-harming maid.
The dark comedy you'd expect from the material and from the director's other work isn't quite as pronounced as the scenario might indicate, with an overwhelming sense of melancholy balancing out the wilder tangents along the way. You could almost call it a sparsely appointed cousin to Atom Egoyan's Exotica and David Cronenberg's Crash, both of which it could play well alongside, but Lanthimos' voice is really unlike anyone else around. No one else could pull off a movie heroine trying to strangle herself with a hotel bath towel and turn it into a touching vehicle for connection with another human being.
Despite the increasing worldwide interest in Lanthimos' work, it's amazing that there wasn't a single home video release of this film (and indeed, very few theatrical screenings at all) until 2015 courtesy of Second Run's DVD in the UK. Not surprisingly, the transfer looks terrific with about as much detail and clarity as you can eke out of a standard def presentation. (It's still amazing that only one of the director's films is actually out there in HD at the moment.) The stereo audio and optional English subtitles are also faultless. The sole video extra is a 29-minute Q&A with Lanthimos conducted at the Tate Modern following a Second Run-sponsored screening of the film, with various topics including the handheld camerawork for Servetalis' character, the role of the Walkman both in front of the camera and during production, the state of Greek cinema and the structure (or lack thereof) of production there, and audience responses to the film with at least one member not sure what the make of it. The disc also comes with a liner notes booklet containing thorough, informative essays by Michael Ewins about the current "Greek Weird Wave" of filmmaking and his thoughts on this film in particular as a study of depression. Very highly recommended for adventurous viewers.
Reviewed on March 5, 2015