I always look forward to the Chicago European Union Film Festival at the Gene Siskel Film Center every year – this one is their 19th annual, and it runs from March 4 – 31.
Syllas Tzoumerkas’ second feature film, A Blast (I Ekrixi) (Greece/Germany, 2014) attempts to demonstrate the precarious and eroding state of the State (Greece) by demonstrating the precarious and eroding state of a wife and mother, Maria (increasingly reliable Greek actress Angeliki Papoulia). In sound-byte political terms, Maria has Worked Hard And Played By The Rules, But What Does She Have To Show For It? Tzoumerkas has chosen a fairly propulsive narrative and visual style to spiral us within Maria’s hopes, passions and betrayals, but the confident style can’t help but blur much of what would have drawn us further in and earned our empathy overall. Maria put her law school aspirations aside to devote herself to keeping the small family business afloat, and married a merchant seaman husband who is at sea six months and home for three, seemingly in perpetuity. When he’s home, the steamy honeymoon is never over, but that other six months…? Her likable but not-as-bright sister has married a hard-core right-wing lout, her own children don’t like her very much, and she’s just learned that her meek, mild, elderly parents have saddled the business, and the family, with irretrievable debt. Pantelis Mantzanas’ digital photography is very good, but the real heroes seem to be editor Kathrin Dietzel (making as much sense of Tzoumerkas’ scattershot timelines as possible) and the aforementioned Papoulia for a ferocious performance that’s well worth seeing. Tzoumerkas’ has good arguments to make, and some good ideas about how to make them, but he needs to impose much tighter form and structure if he wants his ‘blast’ to resonate any longer than a few minutes after we’ve walked out of the theater.
“A Blast” will be shown on Saturday, March 19th at 8:15 pm and Monday the 21st at 8:15 pm as well.