January 26, 2011 / 2:28 AM / 9 years ago

Sundance film review: "Attenberg"

PARK CITY, Utah (Hollywood Reporter) - Already acclaimed at such festivals as Toronto and Venice, “Attenberg” got its first U.S. presentation here at the Sundance Film Festival in the Spotlight Section. In this country, it will thrive on the festival circuit but its subject matter and scenes of full-frontal nudity will preclude more mainstream distribution.

It is both a coming-of-age story and a preparing-for-death saga, as 23-year old Marina (Ariane Labed) embraces her own sexuality while preparing her terminally ill father (Vangelis Mourikis) for his imminent death.

Marina is sexually inhibited and confused, so inexperienced that her only sexual acts have come from practicing kissing with her female friend Bella (Evangelia Randou). She is confounded by her own sexuality, repulsed by male body parts but not stimulated by the female form either.

Marina’s most joyful moments come from playing school-girl games with Bella, as the two mock the world with elaborately silly dance routines, played off with mock Busby Berkeley precision.

Inter-cutting scenes of Marina’s grapples with her emerging sexuality with hospital visits to perk up her dying father, writer/director Athina Rachel Tsangari, has interwoven two of life’s most important facets - sex and death - in a highly unconventional but embracing manner.

As the kind but conflicted Marina, Labed shows child-like vulnerability while at the same time evincing age-old wisdom. As her terminal father, Mourikis smartly masks his pain and fear with a mordant wit and stoic manner.

Attenberg is distinguished aesthetically by cinematographer Thimios Bakatakis eye for both the beauty of coastal Greece and the hideousness of its mineral factories, conveying, like the film itself, the life-giving and life-taking moments in our lifetimes.

Editing by Zorianna Kit

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