'Alps' review: Alternate reality obscures real feelings

'Alps'

'Alps' (September 4, 2012)

**1/2 (out of four)

Greek writer-director Giorgos Lanthimos' original, unsettling “Dogtooth” was just about the best movie I saw in 2010. That should be enough to sell it. Track it down, please.

Lanthimos' latest, “Alps,” also constructs a different version of reality. In “Dogtooth” it was children raised away from society, taught different meanings to words and different standards of behavior. In “Alps” it's a group of people (including “Aggeliki Papoulia of “Dogtooth”) who work part-time as replacements for the deceased, stepping in and somewhat stiffly re-enacting events in the lost ones' lives as a way of easing the grieving process.

Part of what made “Dogtooth” so stunningly weird yet convincing was the isolated nature of its alternate world. It’s a shame that in “Alps” Lanthimos takes for granted the desirability of the service being provided, when in actuality most people would surely balk at accepting a weak impersonation of a lost loved one. The film, however, could make an interesting companion piece to “The Imposter,” the documentary about a family that believed a stranger to be their son who disappeared more than three years earlier.

Repeated comments in “Alps” about people's fixation on their favorite actors reinforce our interest in both entertainment over bad news and the intrigue of people pretending to be someone other than themselves. Of course, sometimes we're only fixated on the movie star because of who they are, not who they play, one of many questions the movie neglects to address.

Lanthimos' vision still compels and challenges, but “Alps” offers a big idea in place of a better movie.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

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