By Matt Keay.
Renos (Aris Servetalis) is a quiet, reserved, lonely professional waiter in Athens. He spends his days at work, subserviently tending to the patrons of the restaurant he has been employed at for many years.
His nights, an ordered routine of uniform, washing, ironing and preparing for another day at work. He sees his neighbours in the apartment block he calls home infrequently, and even then it almost seems a surprise to him that they even exist.
One night, a man he doesn’t recognise (named ‘The Blond’, played by Yannis Stankoglou) lets himself into the apartment opposite Renos’, which until then had been occupied by a man called Milan. Renos thinks it strange when ‘The Blond’ claims that he is feeding Milan’s cat while he is away on a trip. He thinks it even stranger when he finds Milan dead in the dumpster outside the building.
What follows is essentially a Greek weird-wave neo-noir, which wasn’t a sub-genre I thought I needed, but writer/director Steve Krikris’ first feature is an assured and carefully manufactured debut, brimming with potential. The meticulous ways in which shots are composed mirrors Renos’ sensibilities very effectively.
The tale is as old as cinema itself; a man whose orderly life is disrupted by a fateful decision, and there is nothing new, narratively speaking, about ‘The Waiter’. However, Krikris’ measured direction and DP Giorgos Karvelas’ claustrophobic cinematography elevate the simple tale to in many ways a breathless peek into the ramifications of a bored man secretly happy he’s finally feeling something.
The character types in this observational study are already well established in cinematic history, but the performances from the central performances are altogether so mysterious and surprising, that the narrative, coupled with the inherent griminess of almost every environment in the film, results in a entirely seductive and enlightening stab at a genre so well-tread its heels are worn to the skin.
A scene about a third of the way through involves Renos being served a meat-heavy meal of osso bucco and beef bourguignon by The Blond’ perfectly encapsulates the atmosphere Krikris crafts. It is uncomfortable, grim, and hard to swallow. Renos, however, endures it, and acquiesces somewhat happily to ‘The Blond’s requests. He is a man who is desperate for something new, something different, something exciting.
‘The Waiter’ is neither new or different, but Krikris’ talent is exciting. If this film is anything to go by, we should be keeping an eye on his progress.
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