Dominic Ambrose Blogblot

of words: narrative, film and non-fiction

Strella, by Panos Koutras, one of the stars of Cheries-Cheris

Cheries-Cheris, Paris, 2009

Strella, (Also called, “A Woman’s Way,”) is a delightful film by Greek cult director Panos Koutras. How do you top “The Attack of the Giant Moussaka,” his 1999 film about a giant slab of casserole that suddenly threatens the city of Athens? This problem may have been weighing on the director’s mind for much of the last decade heavier than greasy béchamel and eggplant could ever weigh on his stomach. He first went with a surrealistic melodrama with a wicked mother and a burning Acropolis, (“Real Life,” from 2004) but didn’t really hit his stride until now with this much more believable, yet still unusual story. He knew he had to forego the Moussaka’s bargain basement Almodovar kitsch, but it took him and his co-writer Panajotis Evangelidis this long to really master the element that makes the Spanish director’s films work: the subversive gay plot.

Strella is about a pre-op trans who meets a man just out of prison after doing 15 years for a crime of passion. Their relationship starts out very steamy, but hits a few obstacles as they come to terms with their respective pasts, and with Strella’s complicated social life. The film includes many “non-professional” actors in their first movie roles, most notably Mina Orfanou who plays the title role. Mina is first among a whole bevy of trans in this film, ranging from the young twinks to the older grande dames of the night, all natural actors who give the film great authenticity. In contrast to all of the wigs and hormone treatment, is the macho actor Yannis Kokiasmenos who gives a very sensual and sexy performance as Yiorgos, the older man whose release from prison not only means freedom, but also separation from his cellmate. To say that Yiorgos is emotionally torn by this new and uncomfortable situation is an understatement, considering the secrets he must come to terms with during the length of the film.

One of the most interesting and gratifying thing about this story is how well the problems are resolved by the end. Before this, the only gay themed Greek movie I had seen was the depressing story of murder and intrigue “Blackmail Boy” (2002). I somehow managed to miss Katakouzinos’ “Angel” from the 1970s, but I guess I’ll save that one for some suicidal rainy day. For now, I will savor the good feelings that I am left with from “Strella.”

Strella premiered at the Berlinale earlier this year, and in France at the Gay Film Festival Cheries-Cheris that took place in November, 2009 at the Forum des Images. Hopefully, it will soon have a commercial run in Paris so that those who missed it the first time around will get a chance to see it.

Oh, sorry, did the mention of moussaka make you hungry? Here is a small taste of that earlier film:

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December 13, 2009 - Posted by | cinema | , ,

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