Watch Step Journeys (Weekly Links)

Step Up Revolution: multiplex time-killer, or story of my life?

Links to reviews I wrote this week for the Herald, and etc.

The Watch. “The effect wears you down instead of pumping you up.”

Step Up Revolution. “You must become the change you seek, and then everyone will be dancing.”

Neil Young Journeys. “One of those great ideas that don’t turn out to be all that great.”

Farewell, My Queen. “Fine-tuned character studies.”

Alps. (Link dead; review below:)

By Robert Horton

The Greek filmmaker Giorgos Lanthimos is a welcome presence on the international movie scene, an original thinker whose two most successful features are not quite like anything else out there. “Dogtooth,” from 2009, portrayed a family unit operating in an extremely bizarre manner, completely sealed off from the rest of the world. It was a sun-washed, modern story with a placid surface, but somehow reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe. Now comes “Alps,” an equally strange tale that seems to take place in our world, yet suggests a completely alternate activity for at least a handful of folks.

We begin with apparently unconnected incidents: a gymnast complaining that the music for her routine is too heavy (she’d like a pop song), and then a quick flash of an accident victim being rushed to the hospital. This young woman, a tennis player, won’t survive. The nurse on duty certainly seems sympathetic. She is played by Aggeliki Papoulia, a striking, poker-faced presence who also played one of the sisters in “Dogtooth.” As we piece together what might be going on in “Alps,” we begin to understand what the nurse means when she sits with the tennis player’s grieving parents, and offers to take the girl’s place—come to their home, wear the daughter’s clothes, speak some scripted lines. Would two or three times a week be sufficient?

The nurse, and three others (including the gymnast), apparently work in this business, the business of “replacing” the departed. This is an odd subject for a movie, to be sure, but just as odd is the tension within the group; they are dominated by a man who announces one day that they will be known as the “Alps,” because no other mountains in the world can replace the Alps, but the Alps can replace any other mountain. Well, of course. And if that bit of sideways logic makes any sense, then perhaps the rest of “Alps” will, too.

It’s an unnerving movie. Based on a kooky idea, it has a sinister undertone throughout, and although the nurse appears to be the most normal of the Alps at first, she gets shakier as the movie goes on. Lanthimos won’t tell the audience what his meanings are, but the movie suggests some interesting ideas about how the denial of death might have a distorting effect on people, and how acting out a role is no replacement for authenticity. But boiling it down into meanings doesn’t work either: this is a movie to experience and to ponder, in all its weirdness.


On KUOW’s “Weekday,” I talk with Steve Scher about The Dark Knight Rises. The talk is archived here; slide the cursor to the 19-minute mark for the movie part.

At What a Feeling!, catch up with new entries to the repository of 1980s reviews, with vintage takes on Jeffrey Bloom’s Flowers in the Attic and Francis Coppola’s The Cotton Club.


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