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Explaining what can be explained about Yorgos Lanthimos

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It was released in Italian cinemas on Thursday Poor creatures!It is one of the most nominated films for the Oscars this year. The director is Greek Yorgos Lanthimos, who is fifty years old and has been working for a few years on producing international films with British and American actors and actresses. In his career he directed seven feature films that can be defined entirely as “his own” (an eighth, filmed in his feature debut, co-directed with another director), with the exception of KenitaThe first is that every other film he has produced has won an award at one of the two most important festivals in the world: Venice and Cannes.

In fact, his films managed to be highly appreciated by critics and audiences at the same time, being recognized every time as something new. with Poor creatures! Lanthimos won the most important award of his career, the Golden Lion at the recent Venice Film Festival. Lanthimos is one of the few film auteurs who can be said to have fascinated a generation of viewers – those who approached cinema in the years in which he made himself known (between 2009 and 2018) – and who were able to influence first European cinema, then American cinema, albeit with greater difficulty. .

At first, his films were considered part of a new cultural wave coming from Greece after years of economic crisis. His style and approach seem to derive from a distrust of institutions and all forms of authority. They described the corrupt society as pessimistic. The style of his first three films, Kenita, Dog tooth And Alps (the only films of his career that were produced and shot in Greece), rely on the ability to arouse discomfort and discomfort, and to create intolerable and contradictory situations within very ordinary scenarios. There are families with unusual internal dynamics, cops with strange methods, or ordinary people with non-existent professions. In those films, the family, the state and social norms are criticized or depicted as a hellish core through satirical and very original humour, which even today, after many changes, remains the most popular part of Lanthimos' films.

Yorgos Lanthimos received the “Poor Creatures!” award. At the Venice Film Festival in 2023 (Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

The term “deadpan” is often used to define his sense of humor, that is, the kind of sarcasm that is done seriously, pretending that nothing funny has happened or been said. However, Lanthimos never accepted this definition, As he explained to The New York Times“I don’t know what a dead end means. This is what is said every time when we encounter less than intense emotions. “I see a lot of actors acting in melodramatic ways, but that's not what you see people doing in real life.”

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These films were produced with small budgets and limited capabilities, because there is no film industry in Greece. That is, there is no complex of production, distribution and sales companies that allow the continuation of production or financing in the strict sense of the word, but only isolated entities. Those like Lanthimos who want to make films don't have great options and the most convenient option is to make them independently, with friends, acquaintances and (as in his case) workers who work in television or music videos. The result is often films destined for the festival circuit, because if they are well received on these occasions, a low-budget film can make more profit through sales to other countries than it would by showing in its own cinemas.

Lanthimos began his career as a director by shooting music videos and commercials, but unlike other directors who learned their craft in this way, his films do not have the ability to compose, tightly edit, or have a good relationship with the music of the videos or commercials. . On the contrary, what distinguished them, at least initially, was their writing. With exclusion KenitaThe first five films of his career were written with Efthymis Philippou, a screenwriter who worked with Lanthimos at an advertising agency.

dogtooth, The story of a couple of parents who trick their children into keeping them locked in the house, won the Un Certain Regard award at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. Alps, The film's events revolve around some people who are hired by relatives or friends of the dead to play the role of “the dearly departed”, which won the Best Screenplay Award in Venice in 2011. These two successes allowed Lanthimos to take a step forward, which is to make his fifth film, crayfishIn English and with such prominent actors as Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Olivia Colman, John C. Reilly, and Léa Seydoux. Having celebrities in the cast allows for a much wider circulation of the film, which also sells for a higher price, and thus greater visibility. The opportunity also came about because by that point Lanthimos had developed a reputation for being able to work well with actors, basing films on their performances (as well as on the script), and giving them freedom and time at his disposal. Over the years, actors and actresses who have worked with him have described his method of directing them as relying on their instincts rather than executing the script to the letter.

crayfish It tells the story of a group of people who, unable to find a partner, are taken to a hotel in a remote location, where they have one last chance to form a couple with someone: if they don't succeed within 45 days, they will. They become animals. To produce it with the money necessary to make it a film worthy of the stars at its disposal, it was necessary to bring together sixteen production companies and national funds from five European countries. He was selected for the main competition in Cannes in 2015, and won the Jury Prize, which facilitated the production of his next film, Sacrificing a sacred deerAlthough it is more ambitious. The film, starring Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman and Barry Keoghan, was in competition again at Cannes in 2017 and won Best Screenplay.

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These first two English-language films also marked a change in genre and language. Compared to Greek films, social institutions were less targeted, and instead personal (and family) relationships were increasingly targeted: there was no longer the everyday reality of the early films, but rather elements of fantasy and mystery. What is emphasized is his dark sense of humour. But Lanthimos's films at that point were beginning to be less coherent and opening up to a slightly wider audience. despite of crayfish And Sacrificing a sacred deer They're not quite mainstream films, the narrative structure is a bit more conventional, the pacing is more digestible, and despite its idiosyncrasies, the plots are also told in less ambiguous ways than in previous Greek films. This kind of openness to the audience increased even more with the next film, Favoriteas of 2018, was initially produced for the same European money as Sacrificing a sacred deerprimarily from the UK, but was then acquired by Searchlight, a subsidiary of 20th Century Fox that is now part of Disney.

Written by Tony McNamara and no longer Efthymis Filippou, Favorite It is the first film of Yorgos Lanthimos that does not seem like something very exotic to delve into, but rather something traditional, with many original characteristics and style. It tells the story of Queen Anne of England (Olivia Colman) and two women (Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz) who wage a war with sex and an intellectual battle in rising to power to become her “favourites.”

Favorite He explained that something had changed in Lanthimos' cinema and his ambitions. Compared to the first films, it has become clear that over the years the heaviness of the writing has initially been balanced by special and equally sophisticated work on the images (i.e. on the costumes, environments and use of anamorphic lenses). Lanthimos declared his specific intention of seeking an ever larger audience and thus achieving greater success, without abandoning his authorial approach, especially regarding the characters. until Favorite In fact, the scenes of his films were often lit by natural lights (i.e. without the artificial lighting of the set but using room lights or the sun), and the actors were rarely made out as in cinema but more moderately. In ways, for the same reason they have already been combed out of the house. The impression was of a realistic approach when applied to contradictory stories, which is also true of contradictory stories Favoritedespite being an older film, tried to maintain it more elaborately in the costume and makeup department.

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The intervention of a major US distributor like Searchlight meant the film screened at the 2018 Venice Film Festival (the best place for this genre to start an Oscar race), where it won the Jury Prize and the Volpi Cup for Best Actress. By Olivia Colman. However, at the Academy Awards, he received ten nominations, including the most important, but only one win, again for Colman. Such was the critical, awards and box office success, it grossed nearly $100 million worldwide compared to the $15 million spent to produce the film, the same production scheme was repeated for the next film, Poor creatures!This is only by increasing the budget to 35 million. The film, written by Tony McNamara, starring Emma Stone, focusing on sex as a tool of subjugation or enslavement, was shown in Venice with the intention of participating in the Academy Awards. The film won the Golden Lion and received 11 nominations.

Poor creatures! The film is based on the 1992 novel of the same name by Scottish writer Alasdair Gray and is set in fictional Victorian England, where a scientist awakens the corpse of a suicidal girl by transplanting the brain of the fetus she was pregnant with before she died. When she wakes up, the girl knows nothing but that she is learning very quickly, with the naivety of a child but the sexually active body of a woman. It is a story that shows what a woman can become without feeling guilty about her desires and who has never developed a feeling of subordination towards men. In this film, Lanthimos completely abandoned naturalism and instead used very expressive and distinctive costumes, sets and makeup to characterize a fantasy world. It's a very different film to the ones he started with, but with the same frank and provocative attitude.

It is known that his next film will be titled Kind of niceFilming has finished and is now in the editing stage. It was again produced in Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States with Searchlight as a partner, again starring Emma Stone, but co-written with Efthymis Philippou, the screenwriter of his first films. It will tell three different stories set in present-day United States.

– Listen also: Today's episode of Keep me Bordone on Poor creatures!

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