Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Nihilism and anarchy in Nikos Nikolaidis’ “Glykia Symmoria” [1983 Greece]

Exploring Nikos Nikolaidis can be a bit of a challenge, because not only are his films not widely available - even the ones that are turn up without English subtitles, they're also not properly remastered. One will have to use some imagination to guess what it must've felt like watching them in the cinema when they were first released. I suspect they would've been as visually sumptuous as a Marco Ferreri at his best - Nikolaidis is a man obsessed with his lighting and composition, and it shows even through these poor transfers presently available. His 1983 film "Glykia Symmoria" [Eng. Title: Sweet Bunch], for example.

Argyris and Marina have come to live with Sofia, a prostitute and girlfriend of their now dead friend, in a home replete with randomly stolen bric-a-brac - we're given a hint of their possible political activism in the past, but they're now just a shadow from their past - nothing more than petty thieves scrounging from society. One of their friends, Andreas, joins them after being released from prison, and Marina gets hooked on to him, until his chance meeting with porn actress Rosa. Rosa not only latches onto Andreas, but also moves in with the trio, much to the girls' irritation. However, to win their trust and become accepted by the group, Rosa masterminds a plan to wipe clean the safe of a wealthy client of hers. The trio invite disaster upon themselves through their callous attitudes, and when it arrives, their lives, even if momentarily, will suddenly find a purpose...

Nikolaidis may have made the film a good few years before his better-known Singapore Sling, but it is not that far off in its nihilistic outlook and its portrayal of damaged and anarchic characters. This is however the more conventional of the two - more like a crime caper than a film-noir. The film also has a wicked sense of humour even during its darkest moments. The deliciously kitsch set design parodies elements from various genre-films of the time, both Hollywood and European, and the beautiful but totally incongruous soundtrack adds to the irony of the protagonists' circumstances - of dreams gone sour, of ideals replaced with cynicism, of their reluctance to acknowledge true feelings, and their unwillingness to 'conform'. While it is a shame that this film isn't as widely known as some of its western contemporaries, it is one that nevertheless adds to the rich vocabulary of cinema, and is simply crying out to be rediscovered. Needless to say, this obscure gem is Highly Recommended Viewing..!


Compilation: Despina Tomazani, Dora Masklavanou, Lenia Polycrati, and others

Despina Tomazani, Dora Masklavanou, Lenia Polycrati, and others in Glykia Symmoria

Scene Guide:
  • An introduction to the routines of the film's main characters - Sofia getting ready to go to work - played by Despina Tomazani, followed by Argyris in bed with his one-night stand (actress unknown), Marina getting all enthusiastic about Andreas - no nudity but interesting nevertheless, and Sofia picking up a girl at a party. Marina is played by the delightful Dora Masklavanou.
  • Argyris picks up some souvenirs from Peggy and Katia after a night of partying. Afraid I don't know the actress' names - any help in identifying them would be welcome.
  • Andreas is forced into starring in a porn-film - Argyris owes the producer some money, and needs to compensate for the delay in repaying his debts, but since he's not up for it on the day, he cajoles his friend to stand-in. I don't know the name of the gum-chewing cellist, but the star of shoot - Rosa, is played by Lenia Polycrati.
  • This is what Sofia does for a living... :)
  • Marina comes home to find a strange girl with Andreas - Rosa has made herself more than comfortable at their home!
  • Despite being thrown out, Rosa bribes her way back into the house.
  • Sofia invites Marina along to one of her appointments - and they 'nail' a customer.
  • Rosa entertaining a rich client while the trio clean his safe - Rosa's attire may have probably been inspired by the voodoo doll character (Ely Galleani) in Corrado Farina's "Baba Yaga", but the delectable Lenia Polycrati as Rosa makes this scene her own.
  • The trio return home to find Rosa in a terrible state - she had been molested by some intruders. Revenge is now on the cards...

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