The Big Screen Competition of the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2022 (IFFR) held many satisfying and original screenings. From the lyrical sci-fi “Splendid Isolation” (by Urszula Antoniak, 2022, Netherlands) to the abnormally allegorical “Assault” (by Adilkhan Yerzhano, Kazakhstan 2022). But let’s give some space to the refreshing specter of theatrical and cinematic influences, the Greek “Broadway”.
What a great example of a bold and sober film that doesn’t ask for attention, but it definitely seduces you in its world. It stands between a noir musical and a piece of social realism genre, with strong doses of soft gangsters and symbolic fantasy (mostly on the shoulders of a raging capuchin monkey, trapped in a cage).
This hybrid style turns out to be ideal to frame the story of a group of pickpockets that reside in an abandoned theatre, set in the homonymous abandoned entertainment complex. Within their micro-community, the characters unfold the primordial sense of sharing, caring, and belonging. But they mostly demonstrate the charming face of being on a constant threshold. Firstly against any systematic constraint, and secondly against oneself and the others. That’s also why this film works quite well as a visual remedy for those seeking refuge from the popularised dragged shows. The characters disguise themselves with extravagant leftover costumes from “Broadway” to perform street dances and attract an audience—their subject of theft. These scenes connect you with the original vibes of the city, but also give you insights into the strong bonds this city has with Drag. Fun fact, some of the best drag queens of Athens are also featured.
That said, the most captivating beauty of “Broadway” is the idea of genderless love. Of course, a dressed-up performance is primarily connected to gender discourse. Yet, this film takes the discussion a bit further than on body controlling and transformation. Nelly and Barbara/Jonas, the two main characters and performers of the street gigs, develop a body connection and a love relationship that balances Barbara/Jonas on his body selling to older men. And eventually leads him to release from his hunting, obscure past. That has nothing to do with sexual preferences. But stands up for the basic need for connection and self-conception. En passant, Gabriel Yared, the Lebanese-French composer (“Tom at the Farm”, 2013, “The Talented Mr. Ripley”, 1999, “Betty Blue”, 1986), dressed up this mood, once again, remarkably.
Although Massalas mostly spent time at the Cannes Film Festival’s development-focused Cinéfondation Workshop, this film is a survival gem that made it through the health crisis and the post-financial Greek crisis. It might come off as a bit retrospective, especially to the ones familiar with the topic or the contemporary Greek cinema, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but the accomplishment of the director lies in his realistic portrait of a city in transition. The one you would experience with just a passing through the city centre of Athens. In his own words, he used “the city and its modern monuments” to inquire “the remains of a consumerist society, and how in times of crisis they’re being reinvented.”
“Broadway”, directed by Christos Massalas, is produced by Greece’s Neda Film alongside French firm Blue Monday Productions, in co-production with Romania’s Digital Cube/Avantpost. International sales are entrusted to Le Pacte. Anticipated also through MUBI.