Still courtesy of TIFF.
Athina Rachel Tsangari’s ATTENBERG starts with a scene of face-sucking so bizarre and combative it looks like it was recovered from the cutting room floor that wonky video for Depeche Mode’s “Hole to Feed.” And from there, Tsangari never makes any sustained effort to reel in the weirdness, treating us to a film that presents a mostly deserted Greek industrial village and a few of its remaining residents with the mix of clinical distance and pie-eyed compassion that defines Sir David Attenborough’s BBC nature docs. (To wit, the film’s title comes from one character’s slurred mispronunciation of Attenborough’s name.)
The sloppy kissers in ATTENBERG‘s instantly striking opener are Bella (Evangelia Randou) and Marina (Ariane Labed), two bored young women in their early twenties who spend their free time talking about sex and performing carefully choreographed silly walks through their town’s empty streets. Bella is something of a sexual dynamo, who daydreams about prick trees (which are kind of like the hot dog tree from Big Top Pee-wee, but with penises), while Marina is a more modest, asexual beauty who spends her days tending to her dying father (Vangelis Mourikis) and listening to Alan Vega albums (which, if anyone sees this movie, will further fuel Suicide’s post-M.I.A. sampling renaissance).
Like the dissonant electronic music that pervades it, ATTENBERG possesses a discernible pulse beneath its haze of aesthetic fuzz. It regards its human subjects at considerable disconnect, but this just makes its more resoundingly empathetic moments seem all the more humane.
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