Kinetta [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Kino Lorber
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (27th February 2021).
The Film

"Kinetta" ("Κινέττα") (2005)

Watching any new film is a challenge. Depending upon the director, the genre, the skills of all the people involved, watching an unfamiliar film is like stepping into a brave new world. Some directors tread familiar ground and stick within the boundaries of a well-established genre like the thriller or a suspense film. Movie goers see the coming attractions to a film, and they know what to expect: be it a romantic comedy or a horror film, those films usually are all too predictable and yet reassuringly familiar It’s like going to McDonald’s to eat. You know what to expect and how it will taste, and it does not matter what country it is in because you are paying for the comforts of familiarity. And yet, some films do not agree to play by the rules. They are misfits. Some films begin one way and then they swerve into a different territory. With this freshness comes room for surprise as well. The territory may look predictable, but we are not sure of where the turns lead. Kinetta is a seaside Greek town that is desolate resort town; it is also the name of this film. We may be familiar with the concept of what a desolate resort town looks like, how it feels, but we can be certain that no one would set a film there. No one, except director Yorgos Lathimos. You may be familiar with his name; he made a few notable films: Dogtooth (2009), Alps (2011), The Lobster (2015), and The Favourite (2018).

This film however is his debut solo effort. We look at the early works of Picasso because we want to see traces of the genius that is yet to come. The same here. By examining this film closely, we hopefully can find the early traits that will later become trademarks of a talented film maker. That also means that we should not be surprised by the lack of a linear script, nor the shaky handheld camera. The director has something that he wants to tell us, but he is also defining his territory, his space. Early works are sometimes a labor of love; where do you place the camera, how long should a take be, is there adequate lighting? The director is pushing the boundaries of his art; he is trying to express something by capturing the moment on film. Hitchcock famously said, “All actors are cattle.” Watch as Lathimos moves them through their paces.

The plot, if one can use that word, is extremely basic. We are not introduced to any of the characters, instead we merely discover them as the camera trails long behind them. There are three characters that are focused on: a bearded clerk (Aris Servetalis) that works in a photo shop, a hotel chambermaid (Evangelia Randou) , and a man that appears to be a local detective (Kostas Xikominos), but his true passion is for BMW’s, Russian women, and go carts. How these three ever came to hook up with the others is not explained. Neither commented on as well are their motivations, their goals, their dreams; nothing. All we know is what we are showed. Some viewers may find this type of filmmaking as being incredibly frustrating; others may enjoy the challenge and stay tuned to see what develops. The only concrete interest that all three players are interested in is this: they reenact and record violent incidents. We are not told if these incidents are real or merely made up. If the detective was interested in restaging crime scenes, that would be interesting, but what we are presented with is the hotel maid playing the victim, the photo clerk acting as the cinematographer, and the detective acting as the director/narrator as he yells out the directions to the others. Dialogue is kept to a bare minimum; it is almost as if there was not a need to communicate between the characters. They are actors in an absurdist drama and their involvement is at best cursory. There are long takes of a person eating a sandwich and staring off into space moodily. We watch waiting to see where this will lead, or if it is important, but it goes nowhere and perhaps that is the true reason for the shot. These characters are enigmas. The are of the world, but are they truly in it? And why should we watch them engaged in nothingness? Ultimately there is no real reward and we are left to divine what message the director was trying to deliver to us.

The style of filmmaking is extremely self-aware; the camera is always handheld and often shaky. The focus is narrow and at times is blurry. Long takes are common, we sit and watch as if we were a companion to the actors in front of us. At the beginning of the film we are following someone from behind; the soundtrack is the Greek pop music from their Walkman. We follow along until we see a wrecked car in the road. There is no one else on the scene. The car is severely damaged and turned upside down. Inside we see two people; they appear to be dead. The car’s audio system is still operating, and we hear the music coming from the car. The person that we were following does nothing to offer any assistance to the accident victims, but he ejects the cassette tape that is playing and puts into his Walkman. He turns on the music and resumes his walk. This is the opening scene of the film and it feels completely apathetic. We are pulled into identifying with the POV of the camera and consequently with the character that walks away from the accident. It is as if the director is telling us that we are implicitly involved whether we like it or not. We are made to bear witness to all the events that are going to be recorded.

The director displays several traits that he later would become synonymous with his name; the color palette is sun washed; colors are bleached out by the blazing sunshine which is blinding. The atmosphere of the film is expressly alien; the viewer is unsettled; scenes unfold before our eyes without apparent meaning. We watch but we are not directly involved. It is truly akin to driving slowly past an overturned vehicle as we rubberneck from the back seat in relative comfort. When there are shots with one or more participants in the scene, we feel like we are observing some distant alien life forms that are mimicking human behavior. They may look like humans, but there is something off about them somehow. The characters never really approach being authentic people for us. They are shallow imposters. No one in the film ever comes close to displaying real emotions. Even in the scenes where the chambermaid attempts to overdose on some pills, the photo clerk opens the bathroom door, but takes the time to document the act by snapping photographs of the stricken girl. It is only after he is satisfied with the pictures does he attempt to revive her. This scene should have been more emotional revealing, but it is the opposite; I felt like a scientist looking into a microscope at something unusual.

Video

I am not a fan of cinematographer Thimios Bakatakis’s style of shaky cam photography and it frankly got on my nerves.

Audio

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo track is fine, and the dialogue is clear. The use of Greek pop music was slightly annoying, but I assume that was intentional.

Extras

Audio Commentary track by film critic Amy Simmons. Simmons is obviously a fan and she sees much more potential issues here than I do.

Trailers:

- Kinetta (0:48)

- Dogtooth (1:35)

- Alps (1:01)

Packaging

Comes in a regular Blu-ray clamshell case.

Overall

Moody and non-inviting, this is experimental filmmaking 101. An acquired taste and hardly recommended but for diehard fans of the director.

The Film: B- Video: B Audio: A Overall: B-

 


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