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Thread: Attenberg (Greece/2010)

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    Attenberg (Greece/2010)

    (Warning: Spoilers)

    This film written and directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari was shown at our Cosford Cinema as part of the "Shock me, Shock me: A Cinema of Transgression" series. Advertising materials privilege a disturbing image of protagonist Marina and her friend Bella that gives the impression they share a tongue. I generally avoid any film that self-consciously aims to draw attention by means of bizarre, grotesque, or shocking images because often those superficial attributes are the rationale for the film's existence. Most of Matthew Barney's famous Cremaster series fits that description, as well as lesser works. However, the fact that Attenberg it is the rare Greek film that gets distribution stateside and that Ms. Tsangari produced the consistently interesting Dogtooth (2009) makes its viewing de rigueur for this cinephile.

    The "tongue scene" opens the film, followed by the first of a series of choreographed and synchronized walks by our perky duo. The forced quirkiness recalls scenes from many presumably "hip" but mediocre Amerindie flicks from the past 20 years. Then Attenberg begins to take form as an honest and fairly insightful portrait of a woman dealing with her arrested sexuality and the impending death of her father. At age 23, Marina is too old to find sex embarrassing and penises disgusting (while Bella fucks every man she meets and dreams of penis-trees) . And she is too young to be her Dad's sole companion through illness and death.

    Attenberg ultimately becomes: an unassumingly uplifting film about a young woman who loses her virginity to someone who makes her feel "unembarrassed" and enjoys it, and an inspirational film about a young woman who lovingly and unceremoniously takes care of her father’s needs at a most difficult time. Attenberg turns out to be better than advertised.

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    Attenberg turns out to be better than advertised.

    For you. I did not like it very much, whatever the advertising.

    As you may have noted I did review it some time ago, at the 2011 New Directors: I am not often annoyed at a film, but I was at this, and also at Dogtooth, though it was perhaps not as irritating as the blurb for the previous New Directors had made it sound. I saw and reviewed Dogtooth later, on a thread here started by Howard Schumann. Both leave some impression, it is true. You do say before Attenberg becomes an "honest and fairly insightful portrait..." (fairly = not very, only somewhat) that The forced quirkiness recalls scenes from many presumably "hip" but mediocre Amerindie flicks from the past 20 years. Maybe I'd say Dogtooth wasn't quite as bad as 'advertised.' But it was marked by "forced quirkiness" and "'hip' but mediocre" qualities. I still think these new Greek films are overhyped on the fest circuit, as can happen.

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    Thanks for the reply. And the link to your review. We're not far apart on this. I could have also added to my complaints that the character of Bella is not sufficiently developed, not nearly enough. The comment "better than advertised" is relative to the specific way it was advertised here, which I described. I think you are probably right when you say that these new Greek films are overhyped in the festival circuit. Still, I was ultimately impressed by the scenes between Martina and her Dad and by the performances of the actors in those roles. And I found the resolution to Martina's sexual crisis quite believable and satisfying.

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    Yeah, I can see we are largely in agreement. I think these Greek films do have a strong command of mise-en-scene. They do make an impression. You have a good point that the pseudo-hipness does morph gradually into " fairly insightful portrait of a woman dealing with her arrested sexuality and the impending death of her father"; howeer, the filmmaker has undercut her seriousness a little too much with her hipness. I am under the impression that I liked Dogtooth better, but I'd have to see them again to be sure, which I am not too keen to do, given all the other things there are to see. I'm watching SFIFF films now, and also doing my personal retrospective of Whit Stillman.

    Have you seen the French Canadian film Monsieur Lazhar? I'm not sure what I think. The protagonist is complex and seems admirable as a teacher, meant so for his relative humanity, contrasted with the uptightness and over-regulated and alienated other faculty who are victims of the bureaucracy. And the class is shown to love him. However overall the film seems to be more depressing than its makers may realize. And Monsieur Lazhar himself is in some ways a stiff and opaque figure into whom we get too little insight. Yet it's one of those films I don't want to knock because its heart is in the right place, so I haven't written a review of it.

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    As a matter of fact I just watched Monsieur Lazhar. I liked it and I promise to post some comments by the end of the week. There are a couple of particularly resonant (to me) scenes (or moments) I want to write about. The other good French-Canadian movie I watched this year is CAFE DE FLORE. It apparently has a US distributor.

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    Howard Schumann, formerly among us, now apparently among the departed ones, has a review of Café de Flore on a site maybe new to him (over the past couple of years), which I never previously heard of, The Critical Critics. He speaks highly of it. But I do remember the director's previous film C.R.A.Z.Y. being quite good. Oh, in between he directed Young Victoria, which wasn't that interesting. Flore appears to have debuted at Venice and played at Toronto. Adopt Films, who have acquired it for the US, are a one-year-old operation but may be up to interesting things, like Oscilloscope (only different). Adopt ha have also adopted the latest Taviani brothers film.

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    Cafe de Flore made his top 10 for 2011. What I don't like about that site is the stinky grading system...

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    "His" meaning Howard Schumann's and "stinky" meaning too simplistic, I assume?

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    Yes (him) and NO I don't mean to qualify his writing. I mean the icons used for grading are piles of shit! One pile of (bull?)shit means "see it" and five means "stay away". I assumed you had noticed this since you provided the link.

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    I didn't mean anything about "qualifying" Howard's writing. I thought "his" top ten might mean Howard's. Whose top ten was it? It wasn't clear in your note. No, I didn't scrutinize the thumbs up, thumbs down icons. Should I really have? I don't see the interest.

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    Of course, Howard's top 10: http://www.cinescene.com/reviews/bestof2011.html
    The grading system is "stinky" because it uses "piles of shit" instead of stars, get it?

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    I think I was better off not noticing.

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    I think you're right. Sorry for calling your attention to it. But I wouldn't know about it if you had not offered the link :)

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