Delivering the dark side of the city

For Nikos Panayiotopoulos’s hero, delivering pizzas is the best job in town, allowing him to roam the streets of Athens without purpose. Apparently nameless, he has nevertheless acquired quite a few nicknames: UFO, Superman, Gagarin… He arrives at the station late at night, by bus. No one know where he’s coming from and what he’s after. He remains a silent observer of a kind of reality we all know of, but never actually see. Panayiotopoulos’s «Delivery» (screenings began last Friday) records Athenian nightlife in Omonia and Vathis squares, tracking down the unemployed, the immigrants, the junkies and all those whose daring ambition ends at an odd job or the next fix. At first reading, this is a dark, sad and sinister landscape. Yet in this film – the director’s 11th feature – Panayiotopoulos reveals himself. Setting aside any kind of previous obsession, he appears naked and defenseless. He says very little, opting to record what he hears, random, half-finished phrases, the ones we hear when walking in the middle of a crowd. It’s perhaps the first time the film’s subject imposes on its director, forcing him to take on the role of a silent narrator. The principal character (Thanos Samaras) interprets Panayiotopoulos’s gaze at this exiled and forbidding city. The plot (which is rudimentary) turns into a kind of excuse, allowing him to look around and convey a deep, at times painful, feeling, which he tries to lighten up with a few punchlines. After unveiling the obvious, the director then carefully moves on to what really matters: to all that is uneven and indefinable in life. It’s like a tear welling in the corner of an eye which is never allowed to drop. This «Delivery,» of twilight colors, of grimy photography and hand-held cameras, is the director’s most mature, most compact film. It is also the most heart-breaking and the most desperate. This is because real despair is silent. It doesn’t scream, it doesn’t moralize and it repels cheap humanism as if it were a foreign body. Like a wave, it floods the world before it disappears.