film

With his lat­est Alps, Yor­gos Lan­thi­mos has fol­lowed up the Os­car-nom­i­nated Dog­tooth with an­other un­set­tling slice of sur­re­al­ity. He re­veals his pe­cu­liar Greek aes­thetic to

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Front Page - Don­ald Clarke

Yor­gos Lan­thi­mos tells Don­ald Clarke about fol­low­ing up his ac­claimed

AWARM AU­TUMN day in North Lon­don. The saviour of Greek cinema has joined me in a suave, whole­meal café to dis­cuss fi­nan­cial melt­down, ag­gres­sive sur­re­al­ism and the outer or­bits of the Academy Awards. Yor­gos Lan­thi­mos doesn’t look like a mes­siah. He does, it is true, have a beard. But oth­er­wise he comes across more like a qui­etly spo­ken univer­sity lec­turer. He be­gins to poke his way through his first few an­swers in beau­ti­ful English.

“Well thank you. I stud­ied English at school and I watched a lot of films,” he says. “It’s a lan­guage that you ac­tu­ally use, of course. It’s a funny thing. I have got­ten so used to speak­ing about my films in English that I find it hard to speak about them in Greek. I can no longer find the words.”

What a per­fect sce­nario for a Yor­gos Lan­thi­mos film: a man who can only ex­press him­self ef­fec­tively in a lan­guage that is not his own. “Yes. I can see that. It’s crazy.” Now 39, Lan­thi­mos has been mak­ing com­mer­cials and di­rect­ing plays for close to 20 years. In 2005, his de­but fea­ture, Kinetta, emerged to po­lite ap­plause in ob­scure places. But Dog­tooth, an off-beam, dis­turb­ing drama from 2009, re­ally made the Great God Cinema sit up and pay at­ten­tion. Con­cern­ing a re­pres­sive fa­ther who for­bids his daugh­ters from leav­ing the house, the pic­ture wal­lowed in a unique blend of sur­re­al­ism and tar­geted men­ace. The pic­ture won top prize at Un Cer­tain Re­gard – the al­ter­na­tive strand – at Cannes and went on to se­cure an Os­car nom­i­na­tion for best pic­ture.

His next ap­pear­ance in the cred­its was as pro­ducer of an equally odd Greek film en­ti­tled At­ten­berg. Athina Rachel Tsan­gari’s pic­ture also rev­elled in pe­cu­liar rit­u­als and dis­torted takes on ev­ery­day re­al­ity. It looks as if a move­ment was un­der­way. How long be­fore we all agreed to cel­e­brate the New Greek Bru­tal­ism (or what­ever)?

“I think that the films were more about friend­ship,” he says. “I don’t re­ally think it is a move­ment. But we do share philoso­phies about cinema. Some­where in there you can find things that are sim­i­lar. To be hon­est, there is no way of do­ing this in Greece un­less one film-maker is help­ing the other. Your friend makes a film and then you help her make one. It’s ne­ces­sity.”

Well, fair enough. But Alps, the lat­est pic­ture from Lan­thi­mos, does noth­ing to dis­pel the no­tion that we are watch­ing the de­vel­op­ment of a very par­tic­u­lar aes­thetic. To use the lan­guage of sci­ence fic­tion, Alps ap­pears to be set in the same uni­verse as both

At­ten­berg and Dog­tooth. It’s a cold place in which even al­tru­is­tic ges­tures seem self­serv­ing. The sound­track never hap­pens upon any sooth­ing beats. The di­a­logue is as an­gu­lar as that of Harold Pin­ter.

The story con­cerns a group of peo­ple who

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