by Theodoros II
As a man who loves foreign films, as a hopeless, romantic fool who often tries to taste life through movies, and as one who has watched more than two thousand foreign films during his lifetime, I know when a movie has something to say, and when a film has come to stay with us forever. Or at least, I think I know….
Ftina Tsigara [Cheap Smokes] is a movie made for every fan of the art of cinematography and for anyone who simply loves movies with a European aesthetic and a European air. The film takes us to one of the most historic and crowded cities in the world – Athens. Long before the decadence, the endless riots, and the current economic crisis which has reminded the world of the existence of Athens, Renos Haralambidis, directing himself, captured on film one of the most peaceful and beautiful versions of this iconic city, and for that alone the film deserves credit.
Back in the late 90s, well before the current crisis, the economic development of Greece and its quality of life were among the most impressive in the world, but leading man Nikos (Haralambidis) doesn’t take advantage of any of this. Jobless, with no special education, and with no plans for a brighter future, a “specialist in general matters,” as he describes himself, he survives by coincidence really, and just experiences life. He doesn’t tell us much about his past, and all we really know is that he loves his bohemian present, and that his main goal is to go on without any specific purpose or cares on an August night in the beautiful city of Athens. He doesn’t have any expectations and he has no dreams; all he really does is observe and experience his life. He finds himself in the company of some of the most unusual characters you can imagine, from cuckolded husbands to former boxers, from mafia members to bon vivants, and from bar owners to older men complaining that they can’t get an erection anymore. Yet he manages to communicate perfectly well with all of them because he just smokes and listens to what they have to say. He offers to all of them the greatest of all comforts – he just listens.
This is how he ends up meeting the beautiful Sofia (Anna-Maria Papaharalambous). They trade phone cards in a phone booth under the Acropolis, and end up sharing beautiful but meaningless conversations, endless walks in the summer-emptied town, and secrets – secrets that they won’t confess to each other, but just encode and allow to float in the air.
Can love survive in such a hopelessly romantic situation? Can love overcome every social, or even every existential, barrier? These are questions you will have to answer for yourself while watching this beautiful film with a bittersweet ending. It will certainly stir up confusing and contradictory feelings. You may not know if you feel happy and excited with all you’ve just watched, or just melancholy and desperate.
The only certain thing is that you will laugh. The erotic and colorful scenarios will enrapture you while the sneaky and teasing dialogue will stimulate your senses. It’s also quite impossible to overlook the scenery, and perhaps anyone planning a vacation will be inspired to visit Greece, and especially Athens, after watching this film, since it really is a medley of the city and its most beautiful places.
This piece of art will touch the romantics of both sexes, even though fans of the Die Hard genre might get bored halfway through. One way or another, this can be a new experience for all those who trust their imaginations more than Hollywood special effects. If I could describe this film with one sentence, I would borrow a title from Jamiroquai’s album and say that watching it was like “Travelling Without Moving.”
So until the next time, Theocracy’s finest wish that you have a very good day.