Color, 1990, 79 mins. 20 secs.
Directed by Dimitris Panayiotatos
Starring Benoit Roussel, Christine Skaza, Takis Moschos, Arto Apartian
Mondo Macabro (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
Released under the banner of "The Greek Fantastique," this odd and dreamy mixture of science fiction and erotic art film could best be described as a politically incorrect romance novel shot like a music video with a third act ambush out of Doctor Who. The premise, which becomes more fragmented as it goes along, follows the domestic disturbances in the life of Sylvia (Skaza), a young woman we first see dumping her smoldering, not terribly cheerful boyfriend, Angelos (Roussel), because his intensity is "wearing me out." He responds by ramming a knife into his hand, followed by some break up sex in a restaurant bathroom. In cutaways we also see him typing in a dark, neon-decorated room and working on a program called "Sylvia," which will obviously become important later.
Three years later, Sylvia is living comfortably with a much more sedate but unfaithful doctor, Michalis (Apartian), and still hanging on to the bloody dress from her last night with her ex. She's also haunted by his parting words, unspooling a music tape reel and telling her that her life will unravel. Now she's working for the Sonar Recording Company, and Andros is seeing her husband for health issues he still blames on the break up. Soon Sylvia is suffering from random spasms and bouts of unexplained sexual ecstasy at inopportune moments, whether it's on her living room floor or driving her car in the middle of the afternoon. In the meantime she's also trying to land a recording deal with an enigmatic composer named Zinos Flerianos on Andros's recommendation, who doesn't seem to ever show up in person for public performances. How it all ties together, of course, turns out to be much stranger than anything she could have expected.
Shooting for a mood not dissimilar to films like Open Your Eyes and Beyond the Black Rainbow, this is an ambitious little time travel film loaded with vivid colors, waves of electronic music, and a heavy dose of casual nudity from both of the leads. Trying to pull all of it together takes quite a bit of concentration, but it's worth the effort as the film heads to its surreal finale, sadly spoiled slightly by the promotional artwork carried over to the cover of its first English-friendly release in any format from Mondo Macabro. The DVD looks okay for what appears to be a dated master created much earlier in the home video era, though it's appropriate to the hazy, music video-inspired '90s cinematography. Likewise, the Dolby Digital stereo track (Greek with optional English subtitles) gets the job done well enough without putting your speakers through a significant workout.
The disc also comes packed with some very substantial extras, starting off with the feature-length "Strangers in a Strange Land" documentary (96m18s) from 2009. A real eye opener, it's a very thorough look at a slew of Greek horror, action, sci-fi, and thriller titles that have mostly been never seen outside their native country. Numerous writers, critics, and directors involved in the films are interviewed as well, offering context for how these titles sprang out of genre fiction including some cool-looking pulp mysteries. Prepare to make a wish list after it's over thanks to titles like The Murderer Who Loved a Lot, The Fear, Doubts, and U Turn. Next up is "The Last Meal" (26m58s), a macabre episode of a Greek TV anthology series called Tales of Love and Terror created by this film's director, Dimitris Panayiotatos. A moody and stylish little vignette, it's about a marriage proposal that takes an unexpected turn thanks to a restaurant that isn't quite what it seems. The big twist is an obvious one that hits about halfway through, but the payoff is worth sticking with it. Also included are the original Greek trailer and "The Fantastic... The Erotic" (25m21s), a new video interview with Panayiotatos about how his lifelong passion of films (particularly horror films) and monster comic books spurred him to explore the uncanny in his own work.
Reviewed on February 17, 2018.