Movie Review: Yorgos L. gets his start with the cryptic and obscure “Kinetta”

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I deft anyone to take a peek at “Kinetta,” the cryptic 2005 debut feature of Greek directing stylist Yorgos Lanthimos and claim they see the Oscar-nominated dazzled of “The Favourite” in a single frame of it.

The dark, surreal obscurity of “The Lobster” and “Killing of a Sacred Deer?” Sure. “Dogtooth,” the feature that put him on the map, came just a couple of years later.

But the wholly Greek “Kinetta” is more overtly navel-gazing, obscure to the point of suggesting obscurant. It’s a 95 minute exercise in minimalism, behavior studies and psychology…and boredom.

I didn’t get much out of it, and I’m fairly certain there isn’t much there to get. But here it is, streaming on the Criterion Channel starting April 2. Dig in.

A resort hotel chambermaid (Evangelia Randou) practices miming a slap and being strangled in between changing sheets.

A chilly, emotionally-detached videographer (Aris Servetalis) stops at a freshly-overturned car to pluck a cassette out of it (the owner’s still trapped in the vehicle), something for the bearded “on the spectrum” weirdo to listen to on his walk.

And then a third party meets the other two in the parking lot of a cement building fabrication business. He (Costas Xikominos) is older, overly fond of his BMW, always in the market for a nice one, and he and the chambermaid begin to “act” as the videographer sets up.

It turns out the car (and go-kart) nut is an off duty cop. The chambermaid was rehearsing in that hotel room. Because with the cop co-starring and stage directing (in Greek, with English subtitles), they are acting out a crime at the scene of the crime. The videographer is taping the reenactment.

This isn’t, we gather, a part of any investigation. They’re like the characters in Cronenberg’s “Crash.” They get something out of this, and blurring the lines between themselves and the criminal (or crime victim) does something for them.

We think.

Is the cop gaining “control” of a crime he hasn’t completely solved?

“As the guy retreats,” he says, dispassionately acting and stepping back and reciting the “plot” of the crime,” “she finds the opportunity to kick him in the knee.”

Is this chambermaid living out some sort of dominance/submission auto-erotic asphyxiation fantasy?

Does the videographer just like to look?

All that unfolds afterward fleshes out the characters (just a tad) and charts their deepening engagement in this role-playing.

There’s little dialogue, none of it performed with anything we’d call “feeling.” Even the sex crime that’s created at one point has a clinical remove from anything human. There’s nudity with nothing particularly sexual about it and a glimpse or three at each of their day jobs — recording a fashion show, cop on the job or chambermaid cleaning.

As we see them, together or apart, we’re treated to Greece without the tourists, or much that suggests a reason to visit there.

There are possibilities here, a set-up that could deliver something more than a directing exercise in driving the viewer a trifle mad with boredom. But not much else, and certainly nothing that gives away Lanthimos becoming the darling of challenging, thought provoking international cinema.

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MPAA rating: Unrated,  nudity, suggestions of violence

Cast: Evangelia Randou, Aris Servetalis, Costas Xikominos

Credits:Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, script by Yorgos Kakanakis and Yorgos Lanthimos.  A Kino Lorber/Criterion release.

Running time: 1:35

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