J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

LAGFF ’16: Symptom

He looks vaguely Minotaur like, which is appropriate, since he is Greek. However, the only labyrinth is in your head. Don’t worry, the narrative is never crass enough to interfere with the dreamlike vibe of Angelos Frantzis’s Symptom (trailer here), which screens during the 2016 Los Angeles Greek Film Festival.

Something awfully tragic must have happened to generate the bad karma plaguing this dark, rainy un-Mykonos-like Greek isle. A mysterious horned figure seems to have the power to drive men mad. Only the solitary, purposeful woman seems immune to his influence. She will try to take charge of the situation, but the rest of the islanders are a rather sad and disorganized lot. Regardless, some sort of confrontation will be inevitable once we deduce the two mystery figures have some shared history buried way back in their pasts.

If Greek cinema makes you think of the arty indulgences of Yorgos Lanthimos and Athina Rachel Tsangari, Symptom is not the film to disabuse you of your stereotypes. This is a murky, standoffish film that prefers give dark portents of horrors to come than stoop to any bourgeoisie genre goings-on. You have your horned man and Sisyphean scenes of the woman struggling to claw her way up a gravelly rock face. All will be hinted at during the late second act flashback, but it would be an exaggeration to say anything is revealed.

By now you should have a general idea how you would respond to spending eighty-seven minutes with Symptom. In all honesty, it will make many viewers nostalgic for Lost Highway, because Lynch’s opaque film at least had some get-up-and-go.

Bear in mind, Frantzis does not even bother with dialogue until the film hits the twenty-minute mark. Considering how little he gives her to work with, Katia Goulioni acquits herself quite well as the mystery woman. Cinematographer Elias Adamis also frames some striking images, but Frantzis’s heavy-handed symbolism quickly grows tiresome. Like Freud said, sometimes a glowing-eyed minotaur is really just a glowing-eyed minotaur. Unless you find Bela Tarr and Apichatpong Weerasethakul excessively commercial, Symptom really isn’t recommended when it screens this Saturday (6/4), as part of the LA Greek Film Festival.

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