L: Sundance Film Review

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

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

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