CULTURE

Between a rock and a hard place

What exactly is Michalis Reppas, a writer of stage and screen blockbusters, doing by working in the realm of theory with the book «Cezanne’s Oranges» (Kastaniotis) which he recently published? (Reppas and writing partner Thanassis Papathanassiou have made the films, among others, «Safe Sex,» «Silicon Tears» and «Oxygen.») «It is just an effort by a simple laborer in the entertainment industry to clarify the question: ‘What role does art play?’» he explains on the back cover of the said publication. But the question, despite the writer’s stated modesty, is not one that is easily answered, least of all in a book. «It is amateur and impulsive,» he says of the book, and certainly very readable. Of course, it is Reppas all over: expressive, crazy, funny, obsessive and over the top at times. Did something specific happen recently that compelled you to write this book? Nothing specific. Let’s just say that it’s a syndrome Thanassis [Papathanassiou] and I have had for a long time: Even though we are in the thick of things, at the hub of the show business world and despite all our good luck, we always feel uncomfortable, in any context. Because people want to label you, to place you in one area or another… Do you not belong anywhere? No, and I’m glad we don’t belong, but sometimes I feel a bit like an orphan. A need to have a bigger base that covers us a bit more. Do you mean that you belong neither to the commercial nor the art house sides of art? We are certainly somewhere in the middle of that dangerous path. And we have a bone to pick because there are a lot of writers, directors and composers out there that we know enjoy our work, but they never come out in public to give us their support when we need it. On the other hand, you sometimes read interviews given by colleagues – writers who have reached a certain age and achieved a reputation – and they come across as so fired up and non-conformist, so against the establishment, that I turn to Thanassis and say: «Hey, do you think we might be the real pillars of the establishment in this country after all?» So, you do not belong to the establishment? I am part of it, I won’t deny it, because both my age and the money our films make force me to accept it. On the other hand, I don’t feel controlled by the kind of conservatism that that normally entails. About the book, why did you become involved in theory when your films already clearly express your views on art? I wrote the book in a space of 20 days while on holiday in August 2000 at Ancient Epidaurus, along with swimming, seeing friends, that sort of thing. It was spontaneous, I didn’t for a minute think why and how. Seven or eight people can confirm this because they were there. They were the first to say: «Make it into a book.» Later more people said it after I asked their opinion. I was embarassed, that’s why it took two years for me to make up my mind. Could the reason you wrote it be the harsh criticism you have received for some of your work, especially the films? Of course. That’s really what’s behind it. Especially the criticism of «Safe Sex.» At the time we hadn’t done «Silicon Tears» nor the more recent «Oxygen.» How did you feel about the negative stance of Greek critics toward «Oxygen» when the FIPRESCI international critic’s union gave you the best Greek film award in Thessaloniki [at the November film festival]? That should be their problem, not mine. They even made comments about the award. Like we bribed FIPRESCI or something? Or that there is no other point of view than their own. You’ve made your point of view clear – in an unacceptable manner as well, I might add – and the other guy liked the movie. So what? What are we supposed to do, deport him? «Safe Sex,» which sold a record 1.5 million tickets, was not much different. Everyone slammed it. Generally, the critics have crossed the line as far as we are concerned, not just in terms of professionalism, but in terms of common decency. I don’t have a problem with it, they should. And their editors, who allow them to keep their jobs. Your opinion of critics is made abundantly clear in the book, but I still don’t think they are the target. Who are you really aiming at? …Basically, it reflects what is torturing me really deep down inside, what tortures every writer: Is there a single grain of truth in what we are doing or are we simply recycling the stories of our age and nothing more? Is there something more to it than that or are we just good, or bad, imitators. When you reach a certain age, these questions become more pressing. It is not just about money and acceptance… What kinds of reactions do you expect toward the book? There will definitely be those who hate it. But I also think that there will be those who, even if they disagree with what I say, will like it, enjoy it. It’s not as if it’s a real study; it doesn’t ask people to take sides. It’s a piece about my experiences, written under a lot of emotional strain.