' Cinema Romantico: CIFF Report: Tsiou

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

CIFF Report: Tsiou

On Tuesday I faced my first Chicago International Film Festival dilemma. I desired to see both the new Heath Ledger drama "Candy" (which looked pretty good) and the Greek film "Tsiou" (which looked pretty good). But, of course, they were playing at the same time. Using my superior reasoning skills I determined "Candy" will be more accessible further down the road and, thus, chose "Tsiou".

I hate to boil the film down to one of those neat little lines you find on the back of a DVD case but it's really easy to do. "Tsiou" is Really Low Budget Guy Ritchie Gone Greek. Tsiou is our main character/narrator, a man in search of a heroin fix on the Athenian holiday known as the Feast of the Virgin Mary. Apparently this means pretty much everyone leaves Athens - including drug dealers - and so Tsiou is unable to get his fix. He puts in call to his sister, who is the main squeeze of a fierce mob boss, who sends out his main man to score some heroin, who goes to a guy named Nontas, who calls Tsiou and drops the name of Tsiou's long lost love in order to get Tsiou to help him. So, yes, Tsiou is trying to find the same heroin he could not find in the first place.

Ah, the circle of life.

There isn't a lot of plot but there isn't a lot of character, either. There are a lot of shots of the mob boss's main man and his henchmen driving around essentially repeating the same dialogue over and over. There is a even a "subplot" involving a girl (the "cokehead") who spends most of her scenes in a closet doing, well, not much of anything really.

The end may be the most abrupt conclusion in cinematic history. You will often hear critics make the comment that a film's end makes it feel as if the production simply ran out of money to film anything else. But I think that's literally what happened in the case of "Tsiou".

In the case of foreign cinema shown to us in the states we usually get the top of the line material. This is not to say we always get the best material but we get the movies with the most glamorous casts and highest production values and biggest budgets. This movie however is set primarily in apartments - the apartments of people the director knew, I'm guessing. Then the director hit on the great idea of setting the film on the day when eveyone in Athens leaves the city to limit having to deal with uneccesary people in the background and probably to do away with permits altogether.

It's just nice to know foreign cinema has its filmmakers making movies merely with what they have, too.

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