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Lucas Testro [Film Festival 08.15.12] drama

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How do you review a film like Alps? It goes out of its way to be almost relentlessly oblique, and passes with such little impact (other than provoking mild mystification as to what you've just sat through), that it's hard to know what to say.


I'm reticent even to give you a synopsis, because co-writer/director Giorgos Lanthimos makes you wait about 40 minutes to find out what's going on, and some of the comedy in the intervening time comes from characters acting in ways that for the moment don't appear to make any sense (such as a couple, apparently on a romantic date, having a long stilted conversation about the various subcategories of light fittings).

But a synopsis is kind of expected, I suppose, and more importantly this review is going to be very short without one, so just skip to the next paragraph if you don't want to know anything more, while I say this: somewhere in Greece, four people run a service where they substitute themselves into the family lives of the recently deceased, playing the role of the lost loved one to help the family say goodbye and move on. We know very little about these four characters, other than their day jobs - even their names are a mystery, as they use codenames based on various mountains in the Pennine Alps - and as the movie wears on, it seems the reason for this ambiguity is that many of them literally are cyphers, having no personality of their own other than the ones they temporarily adopt for their work.

It's an interesting concept to be sure, but the pacing is so slow that it doesn't work as a drama - it frustrates rather than engages - and the laughs are too few for it to work as a comedy.

None of this is the fault of the main cast (including Aris Servetalis, the star of the other absurdist Greek comedy doing the festival circuit at the moment, the far stranger but more rewarding "L"). They're all strong in their parts, finding all the emotion there is to wring out of the cryptic proceedings.

The cinematography also impresses, though it is a look that lends itself far more to drama than comedy, with the camerawork handheld and naturalistic, and the colour palette particularly subdued.

Comedy can be a cultural thing, so maybe I just missed the point. But Alps is a definite miss in my books.

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TopCat (2 years ago) Reply

It's about (or perhaps less) as much a comedy as Dogtooth. I think it's trying to be it's own thing. It reminds me of Love & Rockets a bit, in that it's exploring characters, without necessarily an aim at the end.


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