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Manuel de Layet [Celluloid 05.19.15] Greece scifi comedy thriller

"A love story set in the near future where single people, according to the rules of The City, are arrested and transferred to The Hotel. There they are obliged to find a matching mate in 45 days. If they fail, they are transformed into an animal of their choosing and released into The Woods. A desperate Man escapes from The Hotel to The Woods where The Loners live and falls in love, although it is against their rules."

Funny how, just by reading this synopsis for The Lobster, you know it's a Yorgos Lanthimos movie. The blandly descriptive names are as much his trademark as his acute eye for the mind numbing inanity of our social constructs.

This time the subject of analysis is the position of hormone-enhanced interpersonal-relations as a status defining symbol.

Partnership status, and the possible existence of offspring, as a meaningful criteria for a job position, is far less frequent today than it was in the sixties but it does still does exist. The proposition made by Lanthimos and Filippou extends this all-too-real absurdity into the tenets of a dystopian society of a "two by two my human zoo" persuasion.

The Hotel, ruled by the always endearing Olivia Coleman, is more of a North Korean resort for the reeducation of cultural dissidents than anything else. The rules are many, ruthlessly enforced, and most of the daily activities revolve around reprogramming people into needing a partner. Not just any partner, a matching one. The principles of that society are basically Tinder elevated to religion. "It's a match! you're both sociopaths!". The solution to smooth out the inevitable frictions arising when people are paired according to arbitrary similarities is to assign them children. The penalty for a fake match is sprouting feathers or antlers.

Fleeing that rather uninspiring fate David, the hero and only named character, ends up in the surrounding woods with the "rebellion." The Loners firmly believe in self reliance and instead of fearing loneliness, they abhor any kind of communication. Good and Evil being as always the two faces of the same ugly monster, their rules are as numerous and similarly enforced by their leader.

Love will nevertheless happen to complicate things further...

The result is both hilarious and deeply sad. You'll end up cackling like a demented spinster after a bottle of Sherry. There are only a pair a flies in the ointment - I did find Colin Farell's performance a bit underwhelming in comparison with the rest of the cast (Seydoux in particular manages to be both chilling and pathetic.) Nothing to deter viewing mind you.

The other problem, if you can call it that, is with the structural integrity if the building:
The whole point of any kind of absurdist work is mainly in the surprise, the inherent sub-logic holding the setting in place should be a continual discovery and The Lobster doesn't quite get there. While the topic is new the articulation of events, the way everything unfolds until the very last moment, is so consistent with the past works of the director as to spoil a bit of the pleasure. That is my only gripe with this movie.

Recommended Release: Dogtooth

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