Friday, August 5, 2016


Six men of what remains of the one percent in Greece spend time on a yachting holiday. As it draws to a close there is an administrative power outage. The friends play guessing games by candlelight which collapses into a petty dispute. Other games are suggested and rejected until one of them comes up with a high stakes contest that attracts everyone's attention. Why don't they compete for who's the best in general, whose teeth are cleanest, whose breakfast choices are the wisest, who is the best sleeper, who speaks the best and so on. The winner will be awarded a chevalier ring to be worn until the next contest. The lights come back on and they are served notebooks and pens. The game is on.

The next few days are mostly spent in conversation with one or another participants making notes openly. The expected penis length comparision takes place but so does a blood test and its results. There is a constant weave rather than an escalation which builds to a strange team approach to the constant competition that is both believable and pushed into absurdity. We are observing maleness but it's a maleness confined by a sense of civilisation and the old Cold War governor of Mutually Assured Destruction: any one of the players who broke into too much of a protest or an open attack would surely disqualify himself immediately. So the play is tense and subtle.

A Hollywood treatment of this would turn into a personal arms race ending with Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifiniakis aiming nuclear warheads at each other. But this is a movie by one of the people usually tagged with Greek Weird Wave in the tradition of Dogtooth or The Lobster. Labels are fun but really what we're seeing here is depth and observation. To understand that this behaviour would proceed without the context of the game is only part of our delight in watching it; the sense that the participants know this and use it as much as possible to their own advantage only adds spice.

Finally, these leaders of the community, formalising their natural competitiveness into the basis of what will surely be tighter and more serious contests in the future as the ring is contested each year, will only harden their sense of privilege. This time it was done with humour (constant, genuine, laugh-out-loud humour) soon enough even the humour will be part of the form and the game impossible to escape. It's this thought that stretches beyond the credits that this film has been forging from the titles. That's robust work.

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