MISS VIOLENCE Directed by Alexandros Avranas. Starring Themis Panou, Eleni Roussinou
Club, IFI, Dublin, 99 min Whatever else you might say about this high-brow Greek sensation piece, you’d have to admit that it has one of the most arresting opening sequences in recent cinema. In the aftermath, the film’s apparently respectable family find themselves under investigation by social services.
We are aware from the beginning that corruption runs through the household. The relationship between father and eldest daughter is eerily akin to that between husband and wife. A sense of menace hangs over the apartment. But the precise nature of the perversion is unveiled impressively slowly. There is no great revelation. One grim incident follows another until we find ourselves in the most squalid of corners.
The similarities with Yorgos Lanthimos’s great Dogtooth are impossible to ignore. Both films concern a deranged patriarch and his tyrannical domination of a house full of women. The look is also similar: an icily cool examination of closed doors and clinical hallways. There is a sense of both film-makers viewing the Greek home – indeed, the modern Greek state – as a sort of oppressive, unyielding institution.
Miss Violence is a less satisfactory piece of work. Whereas Lanthimos imagines an absurd, quasi-comic universe, here director Alexandros Avranas seem unsure as too how deep into surrealism we are venturing. At times the film is horribly real. At others, it plays like a bleak parable. There is an immersion in the more sordid incidents that occasionally drifts towards salaciousness.
Still, this remains a deeply unsettling picture that confirms the rude health of Greek cinema. If the artists are to be believed, that country has become one scary place.
ARTHUR AND MIKE Directed by Dante Ariola. Starring Colin Firth, Emily Blunt, Anne Heche, Sterling Beaumon
15A cert, 93 min A divorced, deadbeat dad, played by Colin Firth, fakes his own death and hooks up with Emily Blunt’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl for an all-American road trip. Woo-hoo! Arthur and Mike ought to be an absolute riot.
Except it isn’t. Not even a little.
Firth’s character, Wallace – a desperate, depressed void of a man – leaves behind a lover (Anne Heche), an ex-wife and a teenage son who can’t stand him. A former golfer, Wallace hopes to steal the identity of another golfer, Arthur Newman, so that he might take up a post on a course in Indiana.
Identity theft becomes something of a grim habit: Wallace meets hot mess Charlotte (Blunt), a schizo klepto who has assumed her twin sister Michaela’s identity, and now calls herself Mike.
Wallace/Arthur and Mike/ Charlotte begin an affair, and find solace in breaking into empty houses and taking on the absent owners’ identities. Will this unorthodox romance survive? Or will they both wise up and return to face their responsibilities?
Unhappily, even stars as charming as Firth and Blunt can’t raise viewers’ dampened spirits. US highways have seldom seemed as unappealing: the sun glowers mercilessly, rather than shines, from North Carolina to Indiana. The script codes deep ideas about acting and impersonation. However, like the road trip and the romance, it’s hard to see where this is going. Or why we’d ever want to visit.
It’s a mystery how Firth and Blunt became attached to such an implausible story populated by such unbelievable people. Might this be is a low point for careers that have already been varied enough to take in to Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and Gambit?
THE ART OF THE STEAL Directed by Jonathan Sobol. Starring Kurt Russell, Jay Baruchel, Katheryn Winnick, Kenneth Welsh, Terence Stamp
15A cert, 96 min To refer to this mid-budget caper as derivative is like describing Siberia as somewhat large and occasionally nippy. It reeks of those late 1990s thrillers by Guy Ritchie and others that attempted to process Quentin Tarantino’s own musings on the works of Elmore Leonard.
The Art of the Steal involves a gang of thugs with colourful names. Titles flash across the screen at random intervals. At least two characters find themselves in the trunk of a motorcar. You know how these things go.
The largely Canadian film is reasonably well cast. Kurt Russell is dry and abrasively charming as Crunch, a highend hood who, after being betrayed by his brother Nicky (Matt Dillon), ends up doing time in a Polish prison for the