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L: Sundance Film Review

L

The Bottom Line

The too-cryptic Greek import makes Dogtooth look like a Lifetime movie.

Venue

Sundance Film Festival, World Cinema Dramatic Competition

Director 

Babis Makridis

Cast

Aris Servetalis, Makis Papadimitriou, Lefteris Mathaios, Nota Tserniafski, Stavros Raptis

The film will surely click with some devotees of difficult art cinema but will strike most as a largely unrewarding, if skillfully made, endurance test.

PARK CITY — A dry-as-dirt Greek allegory about mechanized transportation -- or is it about bears and whole-food diets? -- Babis Makridis's L will surely click with some devotees of difficult art cinema but will strike most as a largely unrewarding, if skillfully made, endurance test. Barring some ardent love from top-tier critics, it'll be a hard sell.

PHOTOS: 2012 Sundance Film Festival

Aris Servetalis plays "Man," who lives in his car and, from what one pieces together, is a kind of professional driver -- albeit one whose sole job is to ferry jars of honey one-by-one to a client who regularly complains of his lateness.

When not doing this, Man mostly drives around having imaginary conversations with his former partner, who was mistaken for a bear a year ago and shot dead. Must've been something to do with all that honey. Man occasionally takes his estranged kids for rides, driving in circles while listening to a tape of an amateur clumsily playing "Moonlight Sonata."

STORY: 'Smashed' Sundance Film Review

Director/cowriter Makridis shoots L with a fixed camera that only moves when attached to Man's car (or the cycle he later adopts); his precise, offbeat compositions have a cold appeal. His actors read lines without inflection, and the dialogue's non-sequiturs are occasionally funny in an Aki Kaurismäki sort of way, though they never achieve critical mass. Motifs -- not just bears and honey, but road safety, loneliness, et cetera -- are repeated enough to suggest they mean something, and viewers who find L engaging enough to ponder (unlike the fair number of walkouts here) may make something deep of it all. If not, at least they'll be treated to the final scene -- a weird, off-key song praising the sea and the many things it makes possible, like beaches and submarines.

Venue: Sundance Film Festival, World Cinema Dramatic Competition
Executive producers: Peter Carlton, Christos V. Konstantakopoulos
Producers: Amanda Livanou, Babis Makridis
Cast: Aris Servetalis, Makis Papadimitriou, Lefteris Mathaios, Nota Tserniafski, Stavros Raptis
Director: Babis Makridis
Screenwriters: Efthimis Filippou, Babis Makridis

Director of photography: Thimios Bakatakis
Production designer: Dafni Kalogianni
Music: Coti K
Costume designer: Dimitris Papathomas
Editor: Yannis Chalkiadakis
Sales: Peter Carlton, Warp Films
No rating, 86 minutes