Nikos Nikolaidis’s passion, nostalgia, disappointment

Twenty years have elapsed since film director Nikos Nikolaidis shot «Sweet Gang,» and now he has returned to something similar with the film «Loser Takes All,» which opened at cinemas last Friday. In those 20 years, Nikolaidis had made another four films, but «Sweet Gang» seems to have weighed on his mind like an unfinished sentence. In «Loser Takes All,» he goes back to the 1990s to tell the story of a group of friends, losers living on the fringes of society. Sensitive small-time crooks, loners yet romantics, they share a common code of honor and dignity, albeit an uncommon one. A 40-year-old man, a 20-something youth and three women come together in a strange, dark adventure which unites them and marks the beginning of the end for the men. Nikolaidis, a director who plays with the extreme, depicting heroes who often border on the insane, has decided, it seems in this movie, to submit to life and express emotions – tenderness, sweetness, bitterness, desperation, irony. His characters are broken by life, wandering the night in a haze of booze, cigarettes and transient relationships. But they are far from shallow; they display true feelings, humble hopes and desires, counting on the forces that have brought them together. Though Nikolaidis’s quality as a director has never been in question, «Loser Takes All» sees him departing from his most recent tendency toward esoteric filmmaking. He appears to have rediscovered his desire to communicate with his audience, to exhibit his disappointments, his cynicism, his passions and nostalgia. This rediscovery has been executed with humor, playfully, with a hint of something almost blase. Here again, he resists social conformity, but not violently. His heroes don’t leave with a bang in the end, but with a song, and the audience leaves the movie theater with a smile playing on their lips; a fitting reaction to a film noir with a large dose of sarcasm. The director’s choice to cast Yiannis Angelakas (former frontman of the Greek rock band Trypes) was very astute – he perfectly portrays the marginal, romantic nihilist – while Simon Nikolaidis (the director’s son who plays the young man) represents the 1990s generation perfectly.