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Film reviews: High on society

10,000 KM ****

DIRECTED BY Carlos Marques-Marcet

STARRING Natalia Tena, David Verdaguer

Spain 2014                     99 mins.

In Spanish, with Greek subtitles.



DIRECTED BY Miroslav Slaboshpitsky

STARRING Grigoriy Fesenko, Yana Novikova, Rosa Babiy

Ukraine 2014                   126 mins.

In sign language, with no subtitles.


An unusual, not to say bizarre week at the multiplex – the week’s only new releases are a Greek period drama and a Greek-dubbed, French-made kids’ cartoon – allows us to spread our wings slightly, and consider the work of the film societies. There are currently three, the Larnaka Cinema Society being the new kid on the block and predictably full of fizz and fun (a recent post on their Facebook page showed two of its (female) committee members sporting fake moustaches in honour of ‘Movember’). The Limassol Cine Club is the grumpy old codger of the bunch, showing a film a week since the 70s but nowadays more enthused by classics than new titles. And of course there’s the Friends of the Cinema Society in Nicosia – the biggest of the three, the only one with its own auditorium (the Cine Studio, at the University of Nicosia) and multiple screenings per week (typically every night except Wednesday and Saturday). We salute them all.

Film societies are an endangered species, not just here but all over the world, their typically slim profit margins squeezed even further by the atomised nature of film viewing (simply put, the young prefer to stay home watching downloaded films on their iWhatevers) and the overwhelming hype of Hollywood ‘event’ movies. Ideally I’d like to support them by reviewing film-society wares every week, as opposed to the latest Vin Diesel – but there’s a problem, or more accurately three problems. The first, quite simply, is that more people want to hear about the latest Vin Diesel (what can I say? the system is broken). The second is that they tend to be one-off screenings, hence inconvenient for casual viewers. And the third – especially for readers of this paper – is that they’re often in a language other than English, and often (though not always) with Greek subtitles.

The result is that we tend to review Hollywood fare and sideline the intrepid film societies (though they always appear in our listings). This week, however, is bizarre, as already mentioned – and, for once, the language barrier is less of a barrier. Tomorrow night at the Rio 3, the Limassol Cine Club are showing The Crying Game, the early-90s classic which of course is in English. Also tomorrow, at the Theatro Skala, the Larnaka gang are showing The Tribe, on which more later. Finally, tonight at 8p.m. the Friends of the Cinema are showing 10,000 KM – the third of four consecutive Sunday masterworks, after Force Majeure and Clouds of Sils Maria and before next Sunday’s The Blue Room.

But wait, I hear you say: 10,000 KM is in Spanish with Greek subtitles. True enough – yet there’s also such a thing as the universal language of films and it comes across powerfully in this expert two-hander, especially the first 22 minutes which are all in a single take. Our heroes, Sergi and Alex (Alex is a girl), have sex, talk a little in bed, get up, brush their teeth; Alex checks her computer, and discovers she’s won a one-year residency in LA (the couple live in Barcelona), then they talk about that too – and agree to go long-distance for a year, then Sergi declares “We’re strong”, and he puts on some music and they slow-dance a little in the bedroom.

What follows is perhaps predictable: despite their love, and despite their good intentions, the relationship suffers (maybe even fatally) over the next few months. But what makes 10,000 KM special is the way that opening shot expresses what the couple have lost – not each other’s presence per se, since they Skype and email all the time, but the easy graceful movement of life as a unit. Films being shot in a single take is a popular gimmick in arthouse circles (we’ve had two in the past year, Victoria from Germany and Fish & Cat from Iran) – but the absence of cuts, as if keeping things natural, is meaningful here, making the point that technology can’t quite substitute for real human contact. Even if you don’t speak Greek or Spanish, the camera in 10,000 KM speaks for itself.

Then there’s The Tribe, where only the camera speaks – because this Ukrainian-made shocker is set at a boarding school for deaf-mute youngsters, where a new kid is forced to join the titular gang. Getting to grips with this prize-winning drama would require more space than I have here – I’ll only say that it’s very strong stuff, and it may be exploitative, and an audience member fainted (actually fainted) when I saw it last year at Thessaloniki – but the point is that the whole thing is in Russian sign language with (deliberately) no subtitles, adding to the chilling sense of otherness and alienation. Three films in two days, wherever you are on the island (well, except Paphos) and whatever your linguistic hang-ups. Support your local film society!


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