Greek Cinema's "New Wave" Washes Over the Miami Beach Cinematheque

There's something weird going on in Greece. No, we're not referring to its people's decision to vote for austerity measures after overstretching the EU's credit. We're talking about the country's cinema. For a country known as a source of theatrical drama, several filmmakers are breaking the rules of the art form to explore a type of movie with more kinship to the surreal, freeform stylings of David Lynch.

The new aesthetic features odd, deadpan delivery of lines by actors in black comedies. Why would a paramedic insist on asking a dying girl the name of her favorite actor? Why must a father pull over to the side of the road to remove all the labels off water bottles before bringing them in with the groceries to his family's home? Those moments establish the odd dramas at the heart of Giorgos Lanthimos' Alps and Dogtooth.

Lanthimos arrives on the film scene with a buzz not seen

since Theo Angelopoulos won the Palme d'Or at Cannes for Eternity and a

Day in 1998. The Miami Beach Cinematheque has dedicated an entire weekend

to some of the more acclaimed films coming out of that country.

Besides Alps and Dogtooth, the MBC will also host Athina Rachel

Tsangari's Attenberg and Babis Makridis' L. This marks the South Florida

theatrical premiere of Dogtooth, as it skipped theaters in its run to

its Oscar nomination for foreign language film in 2011. Though Attenberg

saw a brief run at some local art houses already, and Alps premiered at

this year's Miami International Film Festival, MBC director Dana Keith

went out of his way to snag L, which has yet to find a distributor in

the United States.

You can choose to see the films

individually or buy a package for the entire mini film festival ($35).

Dogtooth is a pitch-black comedy about a father who goes to extreme

lengths to control his teenage children by isolating them from the

outside world. He redefines words, tells them scary stories about what

lies beyond their walled-in home and makes up rules of behavior for the

sake of their very lives. He tells them they do not have the power to

step on the ground outside the walls of their home until their left or

right "dogtooth" falls out. Only then "the body is ready to face all

dangers." But the father will soon learn his oppression is nothing

compared to the pent up sexual drive of his children.

As with Dogtooth, there's a sort of forced subversion of human nature in

the director's follow-up, Alps. Alps is the name of an organization

that provides stand-ins for recently deceased loved ones for their families.

The film focuses on one of the members of the organization who also

works as a nurse. Entanglements ensue when she decides to go rogue and

offers to stand-in for a younger girl who dies at her hospital. She

becomes a girl and a girlfriend again, but at what cost to her own

identity as an aging woman?

Attenberg features a 23-year-old virgin at the center of its story,

feeling her way through sexual awakening while trying to cope with her

dying father and the absence of her long-deceased mother. Father and

daughter have a closeness that includes her asking if he has ever

imagined her naked. He admits he has not prepared her for life. The film

sets up just how unprepared Marina is when we first meet her learning

how to French kiss with her best friend, Bella, in a scene extended to

grotesque length.

L is the most abstract of the films. It opens with a man

singing a song a cappella about murder and hiding out among bears; it

closes with another man singing a different song about sailing the seas.

In between, that second man explorers life as a driver who strives to

deliver a jar of honey to an eccentric client. When he fails that gig, he

joins a gang of free-spirited bikers who never remove their helmets. He

is always in or near a vehicle. This man needs his wheels to define

him. Fifteen minutes into the film, his little daughter observes "Before

you were driving, I was a bit scared, Daddy. You were slightly off."

Visit mbcinema.com for showtimes and tickets.

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