A.C.A.B. All Cats Are Brilliant

A.C.A.B. All Cats Are Brilliant


Reviewed by: Michael Pattison

As a snapshot of life at 30 in contemporary Athens, All Cats Are Brilliant (Sygharitiria Stous Esiodoxous?) is sensitive and sincere. As its disjointed pre-credits sequence demonstrates, writer-director Constantina Voulgaris’s possibly autobiographical second feature is an over-the-shoulder view of Electra (Maria Georgiadou), an arts graduate facing parental and social pressures and whose political activist fiancé Manoussos (Dimitris Xanthopoulos) is in jail for alleged acts of terrorism. It’s a suitably low-key film, one that draws attention in simple and subtle ways to the ongoing austerity measures that are destroying Greece from within.

Foregrounding her country’s turbulent class tensions with on-the-wall footage of actual demonstrations (with all faces but for its protagonist’s strategically blurred out), Voulgaris also establishes widening economic gulfs through radio soundbites and glimpses of the politically-conscious graffiti slogans that adorn the concrete walls of its side streets. Jump-cuts evoke agitation and frustrate any lasting attempt at resolution, to say nothing of happiness; as demonstrated by an early conversation between Electra and Manoussos, which takes place within the emotionally stifling spatial strictures of prison, defeat and resignation are never too far beneath a brave face.

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Electra divides her time and responsibilities between Petros (Alexis Harisis), the young son of petty bourgeois parents whom she is employed to babysit, her own conservative parents, dwindling ambitions of an artistic career and the pervasive political activism to which more and more of her friends are committing. In negotiating this varied emotional (and spatial) terrain, Electra is the sole face of the film’s expressive range, and in Giorgiadou, Voulgaris has found a performer whose acting capabilities would match (and possibly call for) more demanding material. Barring perhaps her imprisoned lover, Electra’s closest pal is a boy half her age, and the chemistry between Giorgiadou and Harisis is convincing - the most tender moment here is that in which they visit a zoo, and enjoy the company of lemurs, affectionate creatures quite oblivious to the political turmoil raging outside.

Like that of her protagonist and of Greece itself, Voulgaris’ narrative is rather listless. Because Electra is torn between various responsibilities, she seems to be more of a witness to the social predicament than a participant against it – which might account for a brief scene in which several concurrent frustrations loom so large that she cuts herself multiple times in the shower. You can’t probe historical moments in the abstract: as plausible a character as Electra is, this is Athens as experience by one particular person, and it’s perhaps fitting then that All Cats Are Brilliant offers little in the way of formal or ideological radicalism. Even in the film’s best and final scene – a sustained take scored by Nikos Veliotis – our protagonist appears out of rhythm, her joy a fleeting moment that only a cut-to-black can make permanent.

Reviewed on: 15 Jun 2013
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A young activist struggles to get by and to find her place in a troubled Greece.

Director: Constantina Voulgaris

Writer: Constantina Voulgaris

Starring: Maria Georgiadou, Dimitris Xanthopoulos, Dimitris Piatas, Themis Bazaka, Kostas Ganotis, Alexis Charisis-Maerkl

Year: 2012

Runtime: 88 minutes

Country: Greece


EIFF 2013

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