Remake leaves the surface smooth

A not exactly acceptable feeling is hauled to the surface by Nikos Panayiotopoulos – contempt. It has no place in today’s world of PR, back-scratching and cooperation. Contempt sears both people involved: the one who arouses it and the one who feels it – it carries a price. In the film of the same name («Contempt,» 1963), Jean Luc Godard rendered it with exemplary accuracy, thoroughness, economy and originality. Nikos Panayiotopoulos returns to the theme in a remake of that film that is faithful to Godard’s plot but differs from it in feeling and atmosphere. He places his heroes, a motley band consisting of a former model (Rea Toutountzi), her architect husband (Nikos Kouris), a failed American director (Renos Mantis) and a luscious secretary (Athina Maximou), in the house of a rich businessman (Yiannis Voglis) on Myconos. And he directs a choreography of relationships in slow motion. Bodies, the way they interact, gestures, glances, all fluently relate the conflict between male and female, the clash of class, ideology and behavior. Tension gets beneath the skin and is concealed under a thick layer of nonchalance. The movie shows the indolent bourgeoisie enjoying the sun, meals, the discussions, the cocktail parties by swimming pools. Time freezes (as in «Tebelides tis eforis koiladas» [The Idlers of the Fertile Valley], 1978). Except that the heroes of «Beautiful People» are not living in bliss. Balances are upset, with painful results. Feelings among the group verge on the extremes – but the surface calm is not disturbed, it is merely tested. The attractive young wife of the architect (who is designing the businessman’s new villa and is drawn by the power of money) begins to despise her husband and turn toward the businessman, the architect captivates the secretary, the American director discovers that the businessman was his wife’s last lover. The situation is resolved at the end with an accident, as in Godard’s «Contempt.» However, in that film, Brigitte Bardot and Jack Palance are killed in a car accident; in «Beautiful People,» Rea Touzountzi is seriously injured but survives, as does her relationship. Nikos Panayiotopoulos’s eye is ironic, sarcastic and melancholic by turns. He savages youth and beauty, turns from old age in disgust – the businessman becomes repellent through certain loud natural functions – and there are no winners in his movie. He eyes weaknesses with tenderness, he understands and offers support to the losers. In «Beautiful People» – filmed with admirable economy, skillful cinematography (Aris Stavrou’s photography is important here) and exceptional performances – nothing feels overdone. An unacceptable emotion is dealt with in a modern, eccentric environment of trendy life styles. Doubt is bred of conflict, and out of the breach come both illusion and hope.

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