Lanthimos' 'Alps': It's not about a mountain range
With "Alps," Oscar-nominated Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos ("Dogtooth") wields cinematic subversions in a seemingly ordinary world with a perverse panache that's his, and his alone.
Seattle Times arts writer
'Alps,' with Aggeliki Papoulia. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, from a screenplay by Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou. 90 minutes. In Greek with English subtitles. No rating; includes nudity and mild violence. Grand Illusion through Thursday.
Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos is a poet of the inappropriate response; a master of dialogue that keeps getting detached from the actions and emotions of his actors; an inventor of outlandish narrative premises that, in their extremity, cast a penetrating and often comic light on a wacko world.
In "Dogtooth," a prizewinner at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and a 2010 Oscar finalist for best foreign film, he depicts a family whose three adult children are confined by their dictatorial dad and acquiescent mom to a suburban villa sealed off from the supposed menace of the outside world. Trapped in a parental construct that has few if any ties with reality, the three "youngsters" soon curdle their way toward psychosexual rebellion.
"Alps," Lanthimos' latest, has just as peculiar an idea powering its plot.
Put it this way: You know you've been lured into a deeply idiosyncratic imagination when lines like "Don't tell Mont Blanc — he won't give me the car-accident girl if you do" start making urgent sense.
"Alps" focuses on a small circle of people — a gymnast, her trainer, a nurse, a paramedic — competitively pursuing an agenda involving impersonation of the dead. The nurse (a drolly haggard and deadpan Aggeliki Papoulia) breaks the rules of the circle when she underhandedly grabs a role that isn't hers to have. After all, she's already busy acting out improbable scenarios with at least two other troubled souls.
Lanthimos continually keeps you guessing about both the procedural and emotional logic at work in "Alps," and his actors are with him every step of the way. One key element of his genius (and it does feel like genius) is the way he's able to make ordinary locales — a gymnasium, a hospital corridor, a cozy apartment — settings for dramas so meticulously perverse that they seem to be taking place in an alternative universe. With "Dogtooth" and, now, "Alps," his cinematic style and subversions are instantly recognizable as his, and his alone.
Michael Upchurch: email@example.com