The Film Society of Lincoln Center will spotlight the amazing work of ‘the boldly iconoclastic director’ Yorgos Lanthimos with a five-film retrospective from February 1 to 5.
Though Yorgos Lanthimos first came to attention as one of the leaders of the so-called Greek Weird Wave, his cinema has always been more complex and harder to pin down than that term suggests. His films are, to be sure, wondrously, imaginatively bonkers (what other director would make a courtly costume drama that so prominently features duck racing?), but they are also wickedly funny, impeccably stylized, and piercingly insightful about the human condition, owing as much to Luis Buñuel as they do to Greek mythology. As Lanthimos continues to realize his vision on an ever more ambitious scale, he has proven himself the rare auteur whose films have the power to provoke and entertain in equal measure.
This series showcases five films by Lanthimos, including his audacious international breakthrough Dogtooth, the first of his four collaborations with co-writer Efthimis Filippou; Alps, a warped, absurdly funny exploration of a secret society who act as surrogates for recently deceased loved ones; the lo-fi, nearly dialogue-free Kinetta, Lanthimos’s rarely screened first solo feature following three strangers drawn together in an obsessive ritual of violence and manipulation; The Lobster (NYFF53), his first English-language feature set in a highly regulated dystopia that demands single people find a partner or be transformed into an animal of their choosing; and the icily stylized The Killing of a Sacred Deer, a twisted, pitch-black psychological thriller starring Colin Farrell in his second Lanthimos film.
In advance of the February retrospective, the Film Society will host the director on January 11 for a screening of The Favourite (NYFF56 Opening Night) and a wide-ranging Conversation with Yorgos Lanthimos spanning his career, influences, and his latest work. This special event will be preceded by a 35mm screening of Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, a major inspiration for The Favourite.
FILMS & DESCRIPTIONS
All screenings will take place in the Walter Reade Theater (165 W. 65th St.) unless otherwise noted.
January 11 Program
Stanley Kubrick, UK/USA, 1975, 35mm, 185m
The first half of Stanley Kubrick’s masterful adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s picaresque novel plays like a documentary of 18th-century manners, pairing the external world that the eponymous Irish rake (Ryan O’Neal) is so anxious to conquer with interior shots that are truly revelatory; ever the innovator, Kubrick fit a 50mm still-camera lens onto a motion-picture camera, permitting him and Oscar-winning cinematographer John Alcott to film even in the low light of England’s 18th-century domains. The resulting mood is crucial to the melodrama that envelops the film’s second half, as Lyndon’s physical gallantry turns into the growing confusion of an overreaching bloke who, in Kubrick’s words, “gets in over his head in situations he can’t understand.” Dismissed by many critics upon its initial release, Barry Lyndon has been belatedly hailed as one of Kubrick’s greatest achievements, and remains a reference for many directors, including Lanthimos himself on The Favourite.
A Conversation with Yorgos Lanthimos
In anticipation of his upcoming retrospective (February 1-5), Yorgos Lanthimos will join us at the Film Society of Lincoln Center for a special onstage conversation spanning his influences and career to date, including the director’s latest film, The Favourite.
Ireland/UK/USA, 2018, 121m
In Lanthimos’s wildly intricate and very darkly funny new film, Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz), and her servant Abigail Hill (Emma Stone) engage in a sexually charged fight to the death for the body and soul of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) at the height of the War of the Spanish Succession. This trio of truly brilliant performances is the dynamo that powers Lanthimos’s top-to-bottom reimagining of the costume epic, in which the visual pageantry of court life in 18th-century England becomes not just a lushly appointed backdrop but an ironically heightened counterpoint to the primal conflict unreeling behind closed doors. An NYFF56 selection. A Fox Searchlight Pictures release.
Alps / Alpeis
Greece, 2011, 93m
Greek with English subtitles
Lanthimos’s exploration of cryptic and unnatural doings follows a secret society (called the Alps) consisting of a hospital night nurse (Angeliki Papoulia, the older sister in Dogtooth), a gym coach, a gymnast, and the group’s leader, a paramedic. The Alps offer a unique service: the recently bereaved can hire them for a few hours a week to act as surrogates for the deceased loved ones—by wearing their clothes, adopting their mannerisms and way of speaking, etc.—in order to help them adjust to their loss. In the director’s own words, the Alps “pretend to be other people in order to escape their own lives.” (The fact that the group’s members bear no physical resemblance to the people they’re standing in for doesn’t appear to matter.) With a disjointed and fragmentary narrative, Lanthimos creates a more severe, outwardly colder film than his previous ones—but it’s just as warped and absurdly funny.
Greece, 2009, 35mm, 94m
Greek with English subtitles
Perhaps the most outré film ever nominated for a Best Foreign Language Oscar, Lanthimos’s audacious international breakthrough is a brilliantly demented parable of power and control. Behind the hedges of their secluded suburban home, a mother and father go to elaborate lengths to keep their son and two daughters ignorant of the outside world—even as the now-adult children grow dangerously curious about sex, a pair of verboten VHS tapes, and what lies beyond the garden wall. It all culminates in an unforgettably unhinged, Flashdance-meets-Dada setpiece that, like Lanthimos’s body of work as a whole, is as darkly funny as it is disturbing.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
UK/Ireland/USA, 2017, 121m
The sins of a father poison an entire family in Lanthimos’s twisted moral tale. What unspeakable secret binds a successful heart surgeon and suburban dad (Colin Farrell) to an oddly unsettling 16-year-old boy (Barry Keoghan) with a taste for spaghetti and eye-for-an-eye vengeance? By the time all is revealed, a supernatural curse, some Haneke-style domestic horror, and a wrenching, parent’s-worst-nightmare decision will leave a picture-perfect family broken, bloodied, and barely alive. Blending operatic surrealism with pitch-black comedy, Lanthimos crafts an icily stylized psychological thriller that hits with the force of a Greek tragedy.
Greece, 2005, 95m
Greek with English subtitles
Lanthimos’s first solo feature bears, in uncompromisingly lo-fi form, the hallmarks of his singular sensibility: the enigmatic relationships between characters, the mannered performance style, and the obsessive interest in power dynamics and manipulation. In a depopulated seaside resort town, a hotel maid, a photographer, and a go-kart fanatic with a kinky side seek respite from the stultifying ennui of everyday life by compulsively staging charged, violent encounters with one another—a morbid ritual that turns increasingly dangerous. The nearly dialogue-free script puts the focus on Lanthimos’s jagged, handheld visuals, which are at once uncomfortably intimate and eerily detached.
Ireland/UK/Greece/France/Netherlands, 2015, 119m
English, French, and Greek with English subtitles
In the very near future, society demands that we live as couples. Single people are rounded up and sent to a seaside compound—part resort and part minimum-security prison—where they are given a finite number of days to find a match. If they don’t succeed, they will be “altered” and turned into animals. The recently divorced David (Colin Farrell) arrives at The Hotel with his brother, now a dog; in the event of failure, David has chosen to become a lobster… because they live so long. When David falls in love, he’s up against a new set of rules established by another, rebellious order: for romantics, there’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. With Léa Seydoux as the leader of the Loners, Rachel Weisz as David’s true love, John C. Reilly, and Ben Whishaw. An NYFF53 selection.