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We review the new Greek/German/Belgium feature Tailor by Sonia Liza Kenterman.

How many times do you need to reinvent yourself, to get into Greek salvation? The bittersweet Athenian comedy by Sonia Liza Kenterman suggests, in its welcome characterization (and rather loose plot development) that once is enough. Μoving away from the now prevalent Weird Wave practice of Lanthimos, Tsangari and Avranas, Kenterman in her first feature film abandons the enclosed family space -always present in the modern Greek cinematic iconography- and gets her character on a road trip through Athens.

Nikos (Dimitris Imellos) is a single, middle-aged  tailor, of the brand that makes expensive men's costumes -but not an haute couture person either. When the Greek Crisis emerges, and the tailor shop starts accumulating debts, there is no other option but to close the shop -much to the chagrin of his still dominating father and shop owner (Thanasis Papageorgiou). In another turn of fate, Nikos' father becomes ill; suddenly Nikos is both independent and solely responsible for the future of the tailor business.The solution is to devise his own cart, fill it with clothes, get the sewing help from a friendly neighbour (Tamila Koulieva) and her young daughter (Dafni Michopoulou), and go out into the street -still in costume.

Kenterman moves gradually the focus from the high-profile (but inactive and indifferent) Athens clientele to the working class; there a daughter's marriage is not a case of individual happiness, but more of a hope for economic recovery and a better future. The focus gradually leads us, in calculated steps, to the Athenian suburbs, characters and places, which seem destined to make a negotiating lesson for the shy and rather inexperienced merchant that Nikos is. These are lovely supporting characters, which imbue an authenticity to the project; they will get our laughter but never our condescension.

There are fine set pieces in the film, and individual scenes (especially the ones showing the character's own neuroses and tribulations) are edited in a sharp manner. There is also a timidity to move the plot forward (and especially the relationship between Nikos and his neighbor and co-partner) so that the audience won't get ahead of  the events; in the absence of a real villain, things suddenly become too easy for the main character -even

Still, Dimitris Imellos makes a credible instantiation of a Greek Jacques Tati suddenly needing to navigate through the Athenian street chaos. Taking his clues from silent comedy, Imellos knows when to underact and hold back, while both Koulieva and Papageorgiou give memorable supporting portraits. Cinematography is crisp here, and the dark blue hues of men's costume match the lighter blues of the Greek sun. Nikos Kypourgos makes up for a lightweight musical score, which elevates the film.

Tailor is one of those comedies you'd like to watch on the big screen, while its directing style avoids misery porn; its plot outlasts its running time, but the film still registers the feeling of making ends meet in a variety of ways.

Credits

Director: Sonia Liza Kenterman / Genre: Drama, Romance / Original title: Raftis / English title: Tailor / Country of production: Greece, Germany, Belgium / Year of production: 2020 / Length: 100 / Color: Color / Original language: Greek / Subtitles: English / Cast: Dimitris Imellos, Tamila Koulieva, Thanasis Papageorgiou, Stathis Stamoulakatos, Dafni Michopoulou / Scriptwriter: Sonia Liza Kenterman, Tracy Sundeland / Director of photography: George Michelis / Production designer: Pinelopi Valti, Dafni Koutra / Editor: Dimitris Peponis / Sound design: Persefoni Miliou / Sound mixing: Philippe Charbonnel / Music: Nikos Kypourgos / Producers: Ioanna Bolomyti, Tanja Georgieva, Melanie Andernach, Isabelle Truc / Production company: Argonauts Productions SA, Elemag Pictures, Made in Germany, IOTA Production / Co-production company: ERT S.A., Magellan Films, Atalante Productions / Supported by: Eurimages, Greek Film Centre, Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung, Film- Und Medienstiftung NRW, Centre du Cinéma et de l'Audiovisuel de la Fédération Wallonie
International Sales: Pluto Film

  • Tailor had its world premiere at Black Nights Film Festival, Tallinn / Rebels with a Cause Competition
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