Greek Comedies

The ninth annual San Francisco Greek Film Festival opened with a couple of comedies set in Twenty-first Century Athens. RF, written and directed by Stavros Liokalos, 2010, is a fast-paced short narrative. The titles show flashes of working-class apartment complexes built in the Sixties throughout the Greek capital.

RF begins with a middle-aged slob standing on the roof of a multi-unit condo building. He twists and turns a rusty TV antenna he believes is his. Then he pulls out a cell phone and calls his wife to find out if the reception is better and is rewarded by insults. A second attempt at repositioning the antenna results in still another tirade from his spouse. He responds by yanking the entire antenna off and disconnecting the wires.

One of the other tenants suddenly looses TV reception and goes up the roof to determine the cause. The two men hurl insults at one another before taking their dispute to the indifferent building manager. As the film progresses more and more of the condo tenants are drawn into the hilarious melodrama. Within this short work Liokalos presents a cross-section of isolated individuals momentarily brought together by unexpected circumstances.

The Guide is a narrative feature directed by Zacharias Mavroedis, 2011. Its main character is Iasonas, a young man from Thessaloniki that comes to Athens to lead an architectural tour for foreign-exchange students. One of the first obstacles he faces is a picket line at the Parthenon. This is followed by a mini rebellion in the group he’s leading. The city can be brutally hot during the summer, so it’s no surprise that they suggest lounging in a café or laying on a beach instead of his carefully prepared tour.

Iasonas takes his new job quite seriously. He’s determined to stick to the plan and also open to suggestions from those he’s leading and makes adjustments each day to accommodate them. He’s a handsome, clean-cut guy. Several of the women find him sexually attractive, as does the gay Frenchman that joins the tour. The guide keeps his distance from all of them but the pressure mounts over time.

Iasonas hangs out with his ex-girlfriend and her current partner Angelos during his off time. Also he must deal with constant telephone calls from his mother. The violent demonstrations, the ongoing economic crises and the current political turmoil are nowhere to be seen but some of the pressing issues of the time rise to the surface in the remarks that pepper the conversation throughout the film.

The short is a modern update of old-fashioned Greek comedy filled with stereotypes that appeals to a wide audience. The feature is smart, nuanced, and poignant but the use of architectural models in the titles seems contrived and the cutaway scenes an awkward editing device.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

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